Issue 18
Monday, 10 October 2016
Charles Darwin University
Dr Anna Nicholson’s research has contributed to a national study
Dr Anna Nicholson’s research has contributed to a national study

Research probes Indigenous smoking

By Leanne Miles

Understanding the reach and impacts of tobacco control strategies on smoking rates in Australia’s Indigenous population has been the focus of PhD research by a Charles Darwin University graduand.

Originally from Victoria, it was while working as a physiotherapist at Royal Darwin Hospital that Dr Anna Nicholson became aware of the high rates of life-threatening respiratory issues faced by Indigenous people related to smoking.

“I became interested in public health, particularly the causes behind the disparities in health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” Dr Nicholson said.

She enrolled in a PhD at CDU, working with staff from the Menzies School of Health Research. Her research contributed to a national study called “Talking About the Smokes”, a collaboration between research institutions and Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services and representative bodies.

“The project collected data from more than 2500 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people throughout Australia including the Northern Territory,” she said.

Her research looked at the recall and effects of advertising, news stories and warning labels among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander smokers. She said she wanted to establish associations between recall of health information with quitting and related attitudes and behaviours to understand what policies and programs were helping to reduce disparities in smoking and quitting.

“Quitting often occurs via a chain of events,” she said. “The data suggested that the warning labels are effective by building concern about the dangers of smoking, interest in quitting and, through these, attempts to quit.”

Dr Nicholson said that messages about health that referenced the health of others were likely to be particularly effective for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander smokers, and targeted advertising that featured community members, specific to each region, complemented or strengthened the effect of mainstream anti-tobacco campaigns.

“In general, more frequent exposure to advertising appears to be important in building concern about health and interest in quitting, however, there also appear to be stronger effects for more targeted and local materials,” she said.

Dr Nicholson will graduate with a PhD during CDU’s graduation ceremonies on Friday. Her thesis was titled “On target: Health information Recall and Effects in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Smokers”.