Indigenous health research team receive $1.76 million grant to address tobacco use in Canadian Aboriginal communities

September 27/2016

A research team led by Professors Robert Schwartz and Michael Chaiton received a $1.76 ciggs Jayaprakash R flickrmillion grant on September 27, 2016 from the Global Alliance for Chronic Diseases to reduce commercial tobacco use and prevent chronic lung disease in Canadian Aboriginal communities.

“Smoking cigarettes is one of the worst things you can do to your health and is a major risk factor for all lung diseases,” said Professor Schwartz, Executive Director of the Ontario Tobacco Research Unit and Professor of public health policy at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health.

Through the study, researchers will collaborate with 13 Aboriginal communities to support the development of culturally appropriate tobacco interventions to reflect socioeconomic, cultural and political influences.

“Indigenous people want to actively participate in research that improves their communities,” said Assistant Professor Earl Nowgesic, Interim Director of the Waakebiness-Bryce Institute for Indigenous Health and RETRAC2 co-researcher. “That’s why we designed this study with Aboriginal people as active participants and attempted to foster relationships between community partners, community participants, collaborating Aboriginal organizations and academic research team members.”

Schwartz, who is also a Senior Scientist in the Institute for Mental Health Policy Research at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, added: “Working together with communities, we hope the study will help close the very large gap in the relative health burden experienced by Aboriginal as compared to non-Aboriginal people in Canada.”

About 18 per cent of Canadians smoke cigarettes, but in the First Nations, Inuit and Métis populations, the rates are 35.8 per cent, 59.8 per cent and 33 per cent respectively. The high rates of commercial tobacco use in Indigenous populations have led to a variety of health issues, lower life expectancy than the general Canadian population and higher rates of tobacco-related death.

The study, Research on Commercial Tobacco Reduction in Aboriginal Communities (RETRAC2), builds on a previous study that examined tobacco use in seven Aboriginal communities and developed tailored tobacco reduction strategies. RETRAC2 will continue work in these areas, plus target six new communities in Ontario and develop a model for commercial tobacco reduction that can be sustained in Aboriginal communities in Ontario and beyond.

The study is one of 13 international research projects on the prevention and management of chronic lung diseases funded by the Global Alliance for Chronic Diseases, a collection of the world’s biggest public research funding agencies that supports research activities that address the prevention and treatment of chronic non-communicable diseases on a global scale.

Professors Schwartz, Chaiton and Nowgesic are working with Assistant Professor Anita Benoit (Interim Associate Director of the Waakebiness-Bryce Institute for Indigenous Health), and Alethea Kewayosh (Director of the Aboriginal Cancer Control Unit at Cancer Care Ontario).