15 Auckland teams compete to stop smoking

Press Release – University of Auckland
The day of reckoning has arrived for 15 competing teams of smokers who took on the challenge three months ago to be smokefree by the end of August.

“It’s been a close race,” says Dr Marewa Glover, Director of the Centre for Tobacco Control Research at The University of Auckland. “The results have exceeded even my wildest expectations. Nearly every member of the top three teams stopped smoking during the competition.”

What spurred the members of the 15 teams to make their determined efforts to quit smoking was the Whānau End smoking Regional whānau Ora challenge (WERO), a new programme being trialed as part of the Tobacco Control Research Tūranga.

Fifteen teams of ten from three regions competed: five rural Maori teams from Tai Tokerau supported by Northland District Health Board’s Healthy Lifestyles programme; five urban Māori teams recruited by Te Whanau o Waipareira in West Auckland; and five teams from the Enua Ola Pacific Church communities in Auckland.

This is a competition like no other, with a focus on Māori and Pacific good health as its ultimate goal.

Each team was supported by a coach, a former smoker who had overcome the habit and was therefore ideally placed to give information and encouragement.

Otiria Legends from Moerewa with their whole team smokefree appear to have won but Vai ‘oe Mo’ui 10, PIC and Big Guns of West Auckland were so close behind that biochemical testing is needed to confirm which team will win. The final line up won’t be known until August 31st with the winners getting $5000 for their nominated charity or registered community organisation.

“Māori and Pacific people have significantly higher rates of smoking than the rest of the population,” says Dr Glover. “Though current stop smoking programmes such as Quitline work just as well with Māori and Pacific people as with others, they are not being used by enough Māori and Pacific people to bring us to the desired goal of halving smoking rates by 2020.”

Associate Minister of Health Tariana Turia has also lent her support to the WERO initiative, calling it an innovative approach to supporting Maori and Pacific people to quit smoking.

Mrs Turia said “We have set a goal of becoming smokefree Aotearoa by 2025, and any initiatives that move us towards this goal are positive.”

“I congratulate the teams who participated in this unique project, and look forward to many other innovative programmes that support our whanau to quit,” Turia said.

WERO is based on Māori and Pacific cultural values, for example by having teams of people quitting together, rather than focusing on individuals. The programme is designed to be fun and also gives communities the chance to raise money for a good cause.

WERO is part of a broader programme of research – the Tobacco Control Research Tūranga, funded by the Ministry of Health and the Health Research Council of New Zealand to identify innovative faster ways to help more people stop smoking.

WERO website: www.wero.me

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