Quit coach a breath of fresh air
Young, female and a picture of smokefree good health, Monique McDonald is one of Whakapai Hauora's latest weapons in the battle against tobacco addiction.
She is one of the Te Ohu Auahi Mutunga collective of health workers in the MidCentral District Health Board Area providing the Whanau Ora approach to helping smokers to quit.
They receive referrals from Quitline, hospitals, medical practices, community organisations, and from people who seek them out on their own.
Palmerston North Hospital alone makes up to 100 referrals a month, reflecting its own improvement in routinely offering all patients with advice and help about quitting.
McDonald started work in November in the particularly targeted area, of helping Maori and Pacific Island people and pregnant women to give up.
Currently coaching 85 people, including five mums-to-be, McDonald last month helped seven new non-smokers to graduate from the programme after going for two months without a cigarette.
She said the numbers might not seem like much, but for her and each new non-smoker, it was huge.
Colleague and smoking cessation coach Peter Williams said McDonald was able to bond more effectively with young women than he could hope to do, which was an important part of her success.
"Pregnant women are hard to reach, and the message does not seem to get through that if they smoke, they are harming another life.
"They seem to think that what goes into their lungs cannot harm what's growing in their tummy," he said.
In fact, unborn babies are exposed to nicotine from smoking at twice the concentration as their mums.
McDonald and the other quit coaches are trained to use evidence-based principles and a range of nicotine replacement treatments to help people to stop smoking.
But for many people, the key is in the one-on-one contact, including home visits, if that is what they would like.
The coaches are alert to other issues going on in people's lives that might be getting in the way of going smoke-free, and are able to refer them to other agencies for extra help if that was needed.
"It's about keeping people's motivation high," said McDonald.
"It's not just a job for me. What works is being open-minded, empathetic, and looking at the whole person, not just the smoking."
Tomorrow is World Smokefree Day, which in New Zealand is pushing the "Quit Now. It's about whanau" message.
The Government's goal is for New Zealand to be smoke-free by 2025.
Williams said ensuring more young people grew up in smoke-free families and never picked up the habit in the first place was an important step toward making that goal a reality.