Closing the Gap health forum identifies smoking in pregnancy and breastfeeding rates as getting worse for the Hunter’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population

By , 17/12/2018 16:21

Mind the gap: Smoking during pregnancy remains a problem.

DESPITE many “inroads” into changing the health outcomes of the Aboriginal and Torres StraitIslander population, when it comes to smoking during pregnancy and breastfeeding, the gap is still widening in the Hunter.

The gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal women smoking while pregnant in the Hunter New England Healthdistrict hasincreased by 1.7 per cent since last year. Rates of breastfeeding on discharge from hospitalhad declined by 2.9 per cent.

The issues were raised at Hunter New England Health’s Closing the Gap Forum on Thursday.

Susan Heyman, executive director of rural and regional health services, said while there had been improved screening and access to health care, but smoking and breastfeeding remained a high priority.

“There is still a gap in life expectancy of over 10 years, and that’s something we will only close if we address the quality of life and the health outcomes of all Aboriginal people,” she said.

She saidHunter New England Health was one of the biggest recruiters for Aboriginal employment in the region, with 4.6 per cent of staff identifyingas Aboriginal –above the state target of 2 per cent.

Ms Heyman said a clinical practice project aimed toupskill Aboriginal health workers, so they couldalso do clinical assessments in rural and remote communities.

A program called Quit For New Life hoped to target smoking during pregnancy.

“One of the areas we haven’t seen an improvement in is breastfeeding at discharge,unfortunately there has been a slight increase in that gap, and it will be one of the areas wereally need to focus on to improve health outcomes,” she said.

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