The Member for Page, Janelle Saffin, has announced $620,000 in research funding for a local project to help pregnant Aboriginal women quit smoking.

Ms Saffin said this is a vital area of research, given the irrefutable evidence that smoking harms unborn babies, and the latest figures showing that more than 50 per cent of Indigenous mothers smoke during pregnancy.

“Smoking in pregnancy increases the risk of complications such as premature birth, still birth, and low birth weight babies as well as the risks of Sudden Infant Death and respiratory problems, so this research is an important step in prevention.

“The ‘Stop Smoking in its Tracks’ project is being led by Dr Megan Passey, the Senior Lecturer in Primary Health Care Research at the Northern Rivers University Department of Rural Health, who has an outstanding background in health research and Aboriginal health.

“I am pleased to be able to announce funding for this project which focuses on health issues affecting Indigenous women and babies in our area.

“The funding for this project is part of the Rudd Government’s $14.5 million Indigenous anti-smoking package announced last year as one of the range of measures aimed at closing the gap between Indigenous and non-indigenous health rates in Australia.”

Dr Passey said the project is a collaboration between academics, local Aboriginal community members and the North Coast Area Health service and follows earlier research involving interviews with local Aboriginal women and service providers about the most helpful ways to support women to quit smoking while they are pregnant.

“The research will explore the reasons for the high rates of smoking and the barriers to quitting for Aboriginal women and use the information to develop a program to be run in four rural communities,” Dr Passey said.