Researchers have been trying novel new ways to encourage Māori and Pacific people to quit smoking, including playing a game of cow pat bingo.

While the gimmicky idea was fun to try out, Auckland University of Technology (AUT) researcher and Smokefree Nurses Aoteroa director Dr Grace Wong found that the ‘Cow Pat Quit and Win’ initiative didn’t make any major difference at the end of the day.

Patients who were given quit-smoking advice from nurses when they went to their GP were given numbered tickets and could take part in an online game where a cow is placed in a field that has been marked with numbered squares. If the patient’s ticket number matched the square on which the cow dropped its first pat , they would win a prize.

Other games included novelty scratch cards, with online prizes and patients being given the opportunity to enter into a $1000 prize draw after being smoke-free for one month.

Wong, a senior lecturer of nursing at AUT, said they were testing the idea that a novel type of smoking intervention would help break the ice between people who smoke and medical professionals.

She said brief interventions, where doctors and nurses ask patients about their smoking and encourage them to quit with support, are effective at motivating people to stop smoking, but that these are too often seen by health professionals as a box-ticking exercise.

“Primary care professionals usually only have a short time with patients so opportunities to engage over things like smoking are brief and this is particularly so for Māori or Pasifika where there are often cultural or communication issues involved.”

Researchers carried out tests at five community clinics over 2015 and 2016, but found the cow pat bingo and other games had no difference on the success rates for quitters.

A pilot study involving a control group and an intervention group found both groups had a higher number of people than usual trying to quit smoking, but success rates remained the same.

“We think that what made the difference was having the carbon monoxide monitor,” Dr Wong said.

Nevertheless, it was still important to look at different ways to engage patients.

“It’s important to take a variety of approaches. The cow pat bingo concept appealed to Māori but not Pasifika youth and adults, so we minimised this while retaining the appealing rural imagery and online quit-and-win components of the intervention.”

She said although the study did not indicate potential for triggering mass quitting, its authors did recommend novel interventions because they reduce dependency and engage Māori, Pasific and first-time quitters. Wong presented her findings yesterday at the Public Health Association conference in Christchurch.


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