New Waikato approach produces highest smoking quit rates in NZ

15 May 2022
New Waikato approach produces highest smoking quit rates in NZ

Waikato people are quitting smoking in higher numbers than just about anywhere else in Aotearoa New Zealand, and the statistics are particularly positive for Māori and pregnant women in the region. 

As World Smokefree May 2022 starts across Aotearoa, Pinnacle Midlands Regional Health smoking cessation programme Once And For All (OAFA) has released figures that show over 6,800 people have successfully quit smoking in the Waikato since the programme started in 2016. 

Over 4,100 of those who quit smoking are Māori, and 658 hapū māmā (pregnant women), numbers that represent the highest in the country for both groups. 

OAFA programme co-ordinator Jacob Taiapa is celebrating what he says have been consistently high rates of smoking cessation in the Waikato over the past six years. “We’re making good progress towards the national goal of a Smokefree Aotearoa by 2025.”

A unique service approach

Jacob highlights a unique fee-for-service approach as the driver behind the positive stop smoking outcomes in the region.  

Instead of directly employing clinical staff to work in the community, the Waikato OAFA service contracts independent third-party quit coaches, and partners with organisations that have existing relationships with whānau. 

The result is a large team of quit coaches spread across the Waikato who have an organic connection with the communities the service needs to reach. 

“Currently, most of our quit coaches are Māori. Many are husband and wife teams, brothers, fathers – whānau teams who are already part of the community and naturally engaged with the people they serve,” says Jacob. 

“That means the people who are referred to us are more likely to listen to the voice on the other end of the referral phone call, listen to what they have to say about stopping smoking, and more likely to let them come over to their house.” 

He says it’s pretty simple. “We’re just people, it’s about natural engagement and being present in the community.”

The ripple effect of referrals

Another measurement Jacob celebrates is 50 per cent of the team’s stop smoking referrals coming through people the quite coaches are already seeing. 

“A client we’re talking to will bring their husband, other family members, their next door neighbour or their workmate into the discussion with their quit coach. As a result, they end up quitting as well,” says Jacob. 

“The quit coaches are constantly sending through referrals for people who have come their way in the community. It also means we are largely dealing with the people who actually want to quit smoking, and have whānau support to do so.” 

The team also takes referrals from Waikato Hospital, Quitline, general practices, St John Ambulance, and community organisations in the Waikato.

Whānau connections

A particular focus in the past year has been connecting with young Māori women between 18-35 years old, a group identified by the Ministry of Health for targeted smoking cessation funding. 

More likely to be pregnant or have young children, and live in a house with a partner, when these wāhine stop smoking there is a wider flow-on effect for both them and their whānau. 

Recently, OAFA quit coaches in Ngāruawāhia supported a group of young Māori women in a Wāhine Maia group, held on site at community trust Tu Tangata. After six weeks, seven out of the eight attendees had quit smoking, and several had whānau involved as well.

One wāhine in the group got her long-time, heavy smoking mother to also quit smoking, and is telling her whānau to contact the OAFA quit coaches.

Community groups and late night hospital support

The fee-for-service approach also allows the OAFA to team up with groups and organisations who are already working to deliver services in the community, particularly those in remote places, or working with groups the service wants to focus on. 

OAFA quit coaches have been trained and set up in organisations such as K’aute Pasifika Trust, Te Korowai Hauora o Hauraki in Thames, and most recently with the Whangamatā Community Services Trust. The collaborative relationship also extends to the Waikato DHB. 

Jacob says Waikato Hospital’s smokefree coordinator, Kate Dallas, is a real asset to the service. “Kate is super supportive and pushes the stop smoking message everywhere.” 

He smiles as he talks of Kaiawhina on the wards who have his phone number ringing at all hours, with patients who want to talk about quitting. “Thats all through Kate’s hard work. We are lucky to have that relationship with her and the DHB.” 

“At the end of the day, smoking cessation is a service that needs to be driven by the local community and connect with people,” says Jacob. “We’re really proud of everything that has been achieved in the Waikato with the quit coaches. 

“We’re not doing anything special, it’s just organically that simple.”