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Hospital emergency departments show promise in war on tobacco

15 July 2016:

Hospital emergency departments could be strategically recruited into efforts to reduce smoking, which still kills 15,000 Australians every year, according to a research paper published in today’s issue of the journal Public Health Research & Practice.

Melbourne researchers found that seven in every 10 smokers surveyed in two Victorian emergency departments (EDs) said they would like to quit and most of those said they would be happy to receive a brief counselling session on giving up cigarettes while being treated in the ED.

“There is significant potential for hospital emergency departments to play a role in quit strategies by targeting a very large and different population of smokers,” said lead author Dr Tracey Weiland, from St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne.

“We found that 23% of the ED patients were smokers – this is higher than the rate of smoking in the general population (13% to 17.5%).

“If you extrapolate our data to the 8 million ED attendances that take place across the country each year, it suggests there is potential here to help up to 1.26 million smokers quit a habit that is the largest cause of preventable death in the world.”

Dr Weiland and her colleagues said that to their knowledge, there was no other Australian data on how common smoking was among ED patients, but their findings were consistent with international figures.

They said that other than adopting smoke-free policies, Australian hospitals did not have a unified approach to helping patients quit.

Any activities would need to be practical, they said, given the challenges in busy ED environments, but “simply asking whether people smoke and giving basic advice on quitting may be a powerful intervention in itself”.

The authors said challenges in rolling out quit programs in this setting included pinpointing which method would work best in helping patients who presented to EDs.

Other papers in this issue of Public Health Research & Practice

Intensive care units: a prime setting for pandemic surveillance

NSW has the opportunity to establish surveillance of intensive care services, which can help to protect the population from dangerous pathogens.
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Long-term study targets improving health outcomes for urban Aboriginal families

A new kind of research partnership is providing a long-term platform for closing the gap and is aiming to deliver real benefits for Aboriginal children and their families living in urban areas.
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Survey comments reveal caregivers feel stressed and pressured

The option to include extra comments at the bottom of a health survey is revealing a new side to women’s health, including the emotional impact of being a caregiver.
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The data diggers: how researchers uncovered the link between diet and brain power

Researchers have described how they linked masses of data to reveal that babies’ diets are consistently associated with better academic performance almost 10 years on.
Read the paper

Large-scale study a powerful tool to better integrate care

A NSW study of more than 250,000 people can provide powerful insights into how patients use health services and how to deliver better healthcare, researchers say.
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Nurses research continues to improve health four decades later

The major Nurses’ Health Study has now been running for 40 years and continues to make significant health impacts, such as influencing regulation around trans fats and guiding anti-smoking recommendations.
Read the paper

Remembering the past: how our personal histories provide clues to future health

Information on a person’s life history such as when they had children or the timing of their retirement holds great promise for health research.
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A new way of thinking about battling chronic disease

‘Systems thinking’ has a promising and important role to play in the prevention of chronic diseases in Australia, but more guidance may be needed about how it can translate into practical and effective action.
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Media contact:
Kellie Bisset, Sax Institute
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Public Health Research & Practice is a peer-reviewed, quarterly online journal published by the Sax Institute. Subscribe for free at

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