Differential impact of Australian tobacco management policies for Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations – Is research evidence informing Indigenous smoking policy?

Previous research has shown that cutting the prevalence of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander smoking would have a major impact on mortality rates within Australia’s Indigenous populations, whose life expectancy on average was 17 years less than non-Indigenous Australians. It is estimated that smoking accounts for about three years of the life expectancy gap, but little is known about the effectiveness of tobacco control programs targeting Indigenous populations. This project was undertaken as part of a Masters in Applied Science and provided a conceptual framework for future research into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander smoking; it also provided information that can feed into policy design processes.

The project’s key aims were:

  • To identify areas where research is needed to enable a successful existing policy already targeting the non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population to be adapted so that equivalent smoking-reduction outcomes can be achieved within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
  • To build an understanding of how research into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander smoking differs from research into smoking within the general Australian population
  • To design a new social paradigm, derived from conceptual coherence of a new framework, theory, and model for Indigenous smoking disparity, to assist the Australian Indigenous Smoking Program/Policy.

The project’s methodology involved a review of the literature on the prevalence of smoking within Indigenous communities both in Australia and overseas, and also drew on successful examples of smoking reduction policies implemented in overseas countries including New Zealand, Canada and the United States. Research evidence was analysed using systematic review and a psychosocial framework adapted from the Commission on the Social Determinants of Health‘s framework on health inequality. The new conceptual framework is developed from the systematic review using Holton, et al. (2007) general research process for using Dubin’s theory building model.

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