Gippsland Pioneers Australian-first Approach to Tackle Smoking

9 October 2017
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Today Gippsland PHN is unveiling an Australian-first approach to smoking cessation that brings together comprehensive training and a redesigned care pathway to provide the Latrobe Valley community with consistent quitting advice and help when they visit their GP and other health professionals. As the centrepiece of the ‘Smokefree Latrobe’ initiative, Gippsland PHN together with Quit Victoria, and in partnership with the Department of Health and Human Services, has developed a new system for rapid advice and referral that will help both GPs and patients. The system will be rolled out across Victoria once testing is complete.

The ‘Smokefree Latrobe’ initiative is funded by the Victorian Government as part of the newly established $27 million Latrobe Health Innovation Zone. According to CEO of Gippsland PHN, Marianne Shearer, the region is ripe for this pioneering health initiative which complements a range of other health improvement activity currently being implemented through the Latrobe Health Innovation Zone. “A recent Cancer Council Victoria survey found that two-thirds of Gippsland smokers intend to quit in the next six months and one-third of them think about quitting every day,” she said.

“The survey shows we are on the right track with 76% of Gippsland respondents feeling that doctors should speak to their patients about smoking at least sometimes, and 31% thought this should occur at every visit. “With these figures in mind, Gippsland PHN and Quit Victoria have worked together over the past 12 months to create a program for GPs and practice nurses to build capability; increase skills, knowledge and confidence to speak to patients; and address barriers such as lack of time and information.”

Gippsland PHN and Quit, together with specialist pharmacists from Alfred Health and GP advisors from the Latrobe Valley, developed training for GPs, practice nurses and pharmacists . Training has also been developed and delivered to dentists and other oral health professionals by Latrobe Community Health Service, Quit, Dental Health Services Victoria and the Australian Dental Association. Director of Quit, Dr Sarah White, said the system-wide initiative was an Australian-first that would particularly benefit residents of the Latrobe Valley.

“Thanks to intensive training for health professionals across the region, Latrobe Valley residents will now be offered consistent non-judgmental, high quality support for quitting smoking during their regular health care visits,” Dr White said.

“Quit is intending to roll this out across the state, with the help of Gippsland PHN. And, in fact, we already have quite a bit of interest from other states in Australia also wanting to adopt this system.”

The launch comes as the National Drug Strategy Household Survey (released last week) shows that the Gippsland PHN catchment is one of the top five areas in Australia and the highest in Victoria for daily smoking.

“Smoking is a major risk factor for cancer and heart disease, which are the main causes of death in Gippsland, and the great tragedy is that much of this pain and suffering is preventable,” said Ms Shearer. “With initiatives, such as this today, we are hopefully creating a brighter, healthier future for the Latrobe Valley.” Ms Shearer concluded. ../end