NBPU TIS – COVID-19 Response

Hi everyone,

The global COVID-19 pandemic means that this is an uncertain and stressful time for all of us. In these circumstances, it is important to rely on evidence-based actions and on information from reliable sources. The HealthInfoNet site has some useful links. It is important that we only reference official Australian sites and information and not rely on unofficial social media information or overseas strategies as they may be inaccurate or misleading.

As a population health initiative, TIS workers will no longer be able to carry out the face to face activities you had planned for the coming months. This might be frustrating, but keeping everyone as safe as possible from the COVID-19 outbreak has to be the first priority. We do not want to catch the virus or be transmitters to others so we need to follow the golden rules of thorough hygiene and physical distancing.

However, TIS teams still have an important role to play under the direction of your organisation. As we know, many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities are vulnerable to COVID-19 due to high levels of chronic disease, housing overcrowding, and poorer access to health services especially in our regional and remote areas. People who smoke are also likely to be more severely affected by COVID-19 if they do become infected.

This means that right now the best thing you can do for the health of smokers in your community is to continue to support them to stop smoking.

So, what can you do to keep the momentum going for the TIS program in your location? Here are a few ideas we have had at NBPU TIS to get you started and we will progressively add to the list:

  • Make best use of existing social media. If you don’t have your own dedicated Face Book page, Twitter or Instagram account, talk to whoever runs your organisational one about how you might increase your presence. Or maybe now is the time to ask for permission to have your own page? Some advice about using social media are available here on TISRIC
  • Social media doesn’t just have to be about posting information – although we know that is one important role. How about trying to get your community actively engaged in the message about smoking by running virtual competitions, surveys, maybe develop a series of ‘Top Tips’ for quitting, or going smoke free, or running a share your story campaign? Maybe even make your own promotional videos? Web FX has a few good ideas you might find helpful
  • Think about alternative modes of delivery. For example, can you run a school program using video conferencing through Zoom or Skype? Many of these services are free and schools might have access to them already. Your delivery and the interaction will be different, but this still might provide a way to keep your program messaging going
  • Do you run regular support and/or educational groups? If these have been cancelled, keeping in touch with people during what will be a stressful time is important. Can you continue support through a dedicated Facebook page? Or are you able to provide supportive messaging via SMS?
  • Is this a good time to design and produce new posters that can be displayed in community? e.g.: Investigate that bus wrap you always wanted to do but didn’t have time for?
  • Depending on your local situation, now might also be a good time to reach out to partner organisations to offer support
  • Finally, what about using this time to really develop those case studies and success stories that you want to share on TISRIC? Or maybe you have some data sitting around that you haven’t quite found time to get to grips with? And if you need help or advice about either of these, please get in touch with us.

As mentioned, the above are suggestions to get you thinking about what creative, innovative and impactful activities can our TIS workforce do while we are restricted from travelling and interacting with the community in close quarters. We would value hearing about your ideas.

Meanwhile, the NBPU TIS is putting together an online training package specifically for TIS workers so watch this space. There are other resources you might find interesting; Stanford University’s research into the impact of tobacco advertising or what about a free online course to upskill your social media marketing (choosing the option ‘Audit The Course’ gives free access to all the content which you can follow at your own pace).

And we also want to hear from you – how is your team responding to this unplanned for change in TIS program activity? What ideas do you have? What are you doing already? What can we do to help? We encourage you to sign up to the Facebook National TIS Workers Yarning Group to have conversations with us and other teams around Australia.

The NBPU cannot answer any questions about what the TIS Program is going to look like (from now to whenever). However, please note that the Department and the National Coordinator are reviewing the implications of COVID-19 on the operations of all elements of the TIS program and advice will be coming out in the near future.

Again, thank you for your patience during this time. Stay safe, stay healthy and rigorously follow the social distancing and hygiene guidelines.

With regards,
Desley Thompson
Manager NBPU TIS