Working in partnership to help people across NSW’s greatest expanses
By Cancer Council NSW
We know that living in regional and remote areas can make it more difficult to access supportive care. This is why, in 2023, we partnered with the Royal Flying Doctors Service Southeastern Division (RFDSSE) to help people living in regional and remote areas to reduce their cancer risk.
We provided a $5000 grant to upskill RFDSSE’s Alcohol and Other Drugs (AOD) staff in helping their clients quit smoking as part of the Tackling Tobacco program. The RFDS AOD staff support people living across over 30 remote towns in Western NSW, from their Wellbeing Place hubs in Broken Hill, Lightning Ridge, Cobar and Dubbo.
RFDSSE’s Mental Health, Alcohol and Other Drug Operations Lead for the Far West, Kayelene Crossing, says the early results from the program are extremely promising: “Our clients are more willing to try and reduce their smoking habits with support from staff and the nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) we’re now able to give them”.
Tackling Tobacco across NSW’s greatest expanses
The RFDS is one of Australia’s most trusted charities, best known for taking to the skies to respond to medical emergencies in Australia’s most remote locations.
But people might not know that the RFDS also delivers important, non-life-threatening health clinics and services as well. With many of RFDS’s clients expressing that they need more support with quitting smoking, RFDSSE and Cancer Council NSW identified an opportunity to make a difference together.
Cancer Council NSW provided training to RFDSSE AOD staff through our Tackling Tobacco program, enabling them to help over 270 people address their tobacco use.
Tackling Tobacco is an organisational change-based program that aims to empower organisations and individuals to address tobacco use through evidence based quit smoking strategies and support.
Helping people live their best lives
The experience of one male client who lives in Wilcannia, shows the impact that Tackling Tobacco can have. When the client presented with chest pains after smoking, the now-trained RFDSSE AOD clinician was able to offer support. The client had noticed his health had declined and he was no longer able to keep up with his 4-year-old child.
“I’ve seen a lot of my mob die from smoking, but I want to be around for as long as I can for my family”, the client said.
The client had previously tried nicotine patches with no success, but the AOD clinician was able to provide him with a free pack of different NRT products including inhalers, lozenges and quick mist spray to try. He was very grateful and asked if the AOD clinician could speak to his wife as well.
Addressing a gap in the health service ecosystem
According to HealthStats NSW from 2022, smoking (daily or occasional) is more common in regional, outer regional or remote areas than in major cities or metropolitan health areas.
Similarly, smoking is found to be more prevalent among Aboriginal communities and people living in disadvantaged areas.
We hope to help change these trends by collaborating with RFDSSE to provide training and improve access to NRT.
Latest data shows that the prevalence of daily smoking was:
in Aboriginal people compared with non-Aboriginal people (7.7%).
in people living in outer regional and remote areas compared with major cities (7.0%).
in people living in the most disadvantaged areas compared with the least disadvantaged areas (3.0%). *
Looking ahead, Kayelene is hoping to foster long-term local partnerships to ensure RFDSSE can continue supporting their communities quit smoking.
For example, RFDSSE were able to utilise an existing relationship with a local pharmacy in Dubbo to purchase NRT at cost price. This enabled them to put together ‘quit kits’ for their clients to try NRT products for free before committing to buying them.
Kayelene strongly believes it has been “worth doing the training”, as Cancer Council NSW staff have “been amazing help getting policies in place and supporting us every step of the way”.