A University of Wollongong researcher has been awarded a grant worth almost $200,000 to trial a healthy lifestyle program aimed at reducing high smoking rates among drug and alcohol abusers.
Senior psychology lecturer Dr Peter Kelly said smoking rates among the general Australian population hovered around 15 per cent but in substance abusers was as high as 75 to 80 per cent.
"When you compare those figures, there's a huge discrepancy," he said.
"Research tells us people with a history of substance abuse problems on average live between 20 to 27 years less than the general population. Cancer is a leading cause of death for this clinical group, resulting in enormous social and financial costs to the Australian population."
Together with UOW colleagues, Professor Frank Deane and Dr Trevor Crowe, Dr Kelly developed the Healthy Recovery Program, which was piloted through four Salvation Army drug and alcohol recovery centres.
The eight-session, group-based intervention program aimed at encouraging those in treatment for substance abuse, who are also smokers, to quit cigarettes, improve their diet and increase their level of exercise.
Dr Kelly said the $197,000 grant, funded by the NSW government through the Cancer Institute of NSW, would pay for 200 people already in Salvation Army recovery centres to participate in the program.
"I'm really excited to be getting the funding," Dr Kelly said yesterday.
"It's a wonderful opportunity to extend our work with The Salvation Army, particularly on a clinical trial that is likely to offer substantial real-world benefits to people attending their treatment programs."
NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner yesterday praised the work of Dr Kelly and his fellow grant recipients.
"To tackle cancer we need the best and brightest minds in the state and this is why I'm committed to ensuring these researchers have the means to continue their important work," she said.
"There are few people in NSW who can say they haven't been touched by cancer and we're investing in this research to see the development of better treatments and care for patients across the state."