Healthy Starts (Te Piripohotanga)


The project aims to test whether a family based program about ETS smoke, delivered by Aboriginal community workers, will reduce the number of clinic presentations of Indigenous infants (Aboriginal and Maori) for respiratory illness in the first 12 months of the infants life. If successful, this project has the potential to improve the health of Indigenous children across Australia and New Zealand

Organisation or Department

Menzies School of Health Research


Northern Territory

Project Timeframe

June 2009 to December 2012

Project Activities

  • Recruitment and training of staff in September 2009
  • Recruitment of participants from October 2009. At the end of the recruitment period we had enrolled 93 Indigenous participants enrolled in Darwin and 228 Maori participants enrolled in New Zealand. The final combined number for the project is 321.
  • Currently engaged in a 12 month follow-up

Partner Organisations

We have an international research collaboration with the University of Auckland, NZ and we are also partnering with the Danila Dilba Aboriginal Medical Service in Darwin.

What in particular helped the project?

  • Our collaboration with Danila Dilba Aboriginal Health Service has been very useful in recruitment and for follow ups of our participants. Their advice and input into the trial has been invaluable from the very beginning.
  • Our international collaboration with the NZ team, a very experienced trial team, has been valuable for learning more about Good Clinical Practice and how to run trials to the highest standard.
  • We have had two external monitor visits that have helped us in accurate document maintenance.
  • Although many of our participants are mobile and some experience other difficult issues like housing insecurity, domestic violence and substance abuse, our staff have been flexible and have built good working relationships with particioants in the study. This has helped keep people engaged in our study and has also helped our participants (e.g. our staff help arrange Centrelink and health clinic appointments for them and refer when appropriate).
  • We have recruited and trained 4 Aboriginal community workers. Three have gone to other secure jobs in the health sector and the fourth worker remains with the project. We feel this project has increased Indigenous health research capacity.

What in particular didn't work so well?

  • Recruitment for this project has been slower than expected. New Indigenous mothers have a lot of other competing issues in their lives that can make participating in a trial like this challenging.
  • There has been a higher than expected ineligibilty rate among our participants; more Indigenous women than we expected have reported not living with at least one smoker.

Summary of Findings and Recommendations

A summary of findings will be available in 2013.

Project Evaluation

A process evaluation of the tobacco control program about ETS will be carried out during the Healthy Starts (Te Piripohotanga) trial. In addition to trialing this program to see if there is any impact on child respiratory health, we are undertaking a process evaluation to assess the barriers and facilitators of implementing this family-based program. All results will be available in 2013.

Project Resources and Publications

Contact Details

Ramya Ramamoorthi
Project Coordinator
Menzies School of Health Research
PO BOX 41096, Casuarina NT 0811

Ph: 08 8922 8084


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