The Queensland Government commissioned the model to inform its smoking reduction strategy by identifying and testing key priority interventions to see which are most likely to make an impact.
Rebecca Whitehead, Senior Health Promotion Officer at Queensland Health, said implementation of multiple strategies had seen the smoking rate in Queensland halved to 12% in the last 20 years.
“Now we are interested in knowing which strategies will contribute to reducing smoking further,” she said.
“Developing a dynamic simulation model will help us target our approach and make sure our investments are effective and efficient.”
The model was developed as a partnership between the Prevention Centre, the Decision Analytics Program of the Sax Institute and Queensland Department of Health. The chief architect of the model was biostatistician Dr Adam Skinner.
The modelling process involved three workshops bringing together key stakeholders in tobacco control, including policy makers, academics and the non-government sector. Representatives from across government, including Housing and Premier and Cabinet, as well as from interstate governments also had input into which interventions were likely to work and where energy and time were best invested.
This expert input was then combined with research and data to develop a tool that can be used to test and forecast the likely impact of different interventions or combinations of interventions over time.
A key focus of the project is how to reduce the significantly higher smoking rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Queensland, and for people living in remote areas or with social and economic disadvantage.
The model is testing a wide range of interventions, including those already in place and other options that are being considered in Queensland, such as licensing of tobacco retail outlets. The model is currently being refined and will be completed later this year.
Ms Pippy Walker, the Prevention Centre research officer who has coordinated the modelling process, said the model had already shown there was potential to achieve a more rapid decline in the prevalence of smoking than would be achieved if smoking reduction strategies remained as ‘business as usual’.
“We are looking at policies designed to reduce product accessibility, acceptability and affordability and increase smoking cessation. It is now about determining what combination of these approaches will produce the greatest public health gains both for the whole Queensland population and those high risk communities,” she said.
Ms Whitehead said the modelling process was useful because it brought together a diverse group of stakeholders to offer different perspectives on what was likely to be most effective.
“The mapping process itself also helped us to see where our investments are strong and provided the opportunity to identify gaps – it was really beneficial to step back and map our investments in this way” she said.