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Curtin University collaborates to reduce Aboriginal maternal smoking

Media release

Curtin University’s Collaboration for Evidence, Research and Impact in Public Health (CERIPH) is working with industry and stakeholders to build an online portal to address Aboriginal maternal smoking issues in Western Australia.

Ms Alexa Wilkins, Senior Health Promotion Officer in CERIPH, said that in 2011 almost half of all Aboriginal women and 10 per cent of non-Aboriginal women in WA reported smoking tobacco during pregnancy, which can result in a suite of serious health concerns for mothers and babies.

“Smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of preterm birth, miscarriage, perinatal death, low birth weight babies and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and can create serious growth and development issues for a child throughout their life,” Ms Wilkins said.

“Reducing smoking among pregnant women and promoting smoke-free environments is critical to improve the health outcomes for Aboriginal women and their babies.”

Currently, there are limited programs, resources or targeted campaigns in WA that address the high prevalence of tobacco smoking specifically among pregnant Aboriginal women and new mothers.

“The online portal will provide coordinated access to information, resources and training on preventing maternal smoking, for maternal and child health service providers and other health professionals who work with pregnant Aboriginal women, new mothers and their families,” Ms Wilkins said.

The site will also include a free online yarning place to encourage an exchange of knowledge and information between health professionals who work in this field. The portal and yarning place will be free to access via the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet website. Training for professionals in how to use the portal and yarning place will be provided.

The project will contribute to strategies to reduce maternal smoking rates and improve maternal and childhood health.

“This project is an excellent example of working in partnership to support health professionals whose work aims to improve health outcomes among pregnant Aboriginal women and their babies in WA,” Ms Wilkins said.

The project is being led by the Aboriginal Maternity Services Support Unit (AMSSU) but it is a partnership project between the AMSSU, Curtin and Edith Cowan University’s Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet.

Funding is provided by Healthway and the portal and yarning place are expected to be available by mid-2015.