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Smokefree campaign uses text to help smokers quit

18 Jul 2016

Te Tai Tokerau PHO is helping GPs who will help Northland patients become smokefree. The system will use text messages to deliver vital health information.

Te Tai Tokerau says primary healthcare providers from Kawakawa to Te Hapua will be able to serve 60,000 patients in the region.

“Smoking not only has major health and financial consequences for individuals, it also impacts on overall family wellbeing.” We’re totally focussed on making gains for our high needs population and addressing the inequities in health status between Maori and Non-Maori by working closely with our communities," says Rose Lightfoot, CEO of Te Tai Tokerau PHO.

In order to achieve Te Tai Tokerau's Smokefree 2025 goal, they needed to encourage patients and healthcare providers to talk to each other, which is not an easy task.

“Many of our patients use cell phones as their main means of communication, so it’s a great mechanism to use to get across positive health messages.  We’ll use it in a wide range areas from smoking cessation to immunisation to cervical screening to help patients keep well by participating in preventative activities.

Healthcare providers can contact patients, and can also make it easier to text back free of charge, which Lightfoot believes will increase the reply rate.

“In relation to smoking, Practice staff have 3 main tasks – find out who smokes, offer positive health messages about quitting and find and support those people who are ready to quit.  Utilising this technology for the first 2 tasks frees time to focus on supporting patients to quit,” says Te Tai Tokerau PHO General Practice Facilitator Pat Millar.

The strategy seems to be getting great results, as Kelleigh Embers, Vensa Health's service delivery manager, says more than 200 patients have asked for support to stop smoking as a result of a series of text campaigns. “We know around 550,000 people smoke daily in New Zealand, which is about 15 percent of the adult population, and the figure is as high as 40% for Maori.  Around 5,000 people die each year in New Zealand because of smoking or second-hand smoke exposure; that’s 13 people a day,” says Ahmad Jubbawey, CEO of Vensa Health.

Jubbawey says more than 900 smokers have accepted 'brief advice' and are seeing their GP for support. They aim to increase this number to 3000 in New Zealand by the end of the year.

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