Enlisting “Aunties” to Support Indigenous Pregnant Women to Stop Smoking: Feasibility Study Results

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Smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of many pregnancy and birth complications. New Zealand’s smoking cessation programmes rely on the smoker to take action and are embedded within New Zealand’s health care. This article describes the smoking behavior outcomes of a feasibility project testing a proactive approach, utilizing Māori voluntary community health workers to identify and reach Māori pregnant women who smoke and provide cessation support.


Women, who smoked while pregnant, were identified and recruited by “Aunties” and cessation support was provided. Baseline and follow-up interviews were conducted. Outcome measures included smoking status, cigarettes smoked per day, time until first cigarette, cessation attempts during pregnancy, household smoking, and smoking inside the home or car. Simple descriptive statistics were produced and simple proportions reported.


The majority of women were Māori, 20–30 years old, had their first cigarette within 30 minutes of waking and 58% had not tried to quit during the current pregnancy. Of the participants who completed a follow-up interview 33% had stopped smoking while they were pregnant and 57% had cut down. There was an increase at follow-up of people who had used cessation support or products.


Aunties are well-placed to find pregnant women and provide cessation support and referral in a way consistent with traditional Māori knowledge and practices. This study suggests such an intervention could increase quit attempts and increase use of effective cessation methods. A more robust study is warranted to develop an enhanced Aunties intervention.

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