Hazelwood Health Study researchers are returning to Latrobe Valley schools to explore the longer-term health impact of the 2014 Hazelwood mine fire on school-aged children.
This year’s round of data collection follows on from an earlier release of key findings from the Schools study where researchers investigated child distress, the change in NAPLAN results from the year before and after the fire and what students said to researchers.
As part of the next stage of data gathering, researchers are keen to recruit a new group of grade three students.
By recruiting this new group, researchers are planning to explore the longer-term impacts of the Hazelwood mine fire in even younger children.
“We understand that it may seem like a long time since the mine fire, but it is important that as many children participate as possible, even if parents don’t think they were impacted by the smoke,” researcher Dr Matthew Carroll said.
The Schools Study, part of the long-term health study, is looking at whether children exposed to the smoke from the mine fire have higher levels of distress than children with less exposure to the smoke. The study is also looking at impacts on education and other outcomes.
Carolyne Boothman, a local teacher and member of the HHS Community Advisory Committee, is particularly keen to see as many children as possible participate in the study.
“As a teacher I saw the effects on students at the time – not just the exposure to the smoke, but also the disruption to their everyday routine of school, relocation and the ongoing stress over the 45 days,” Ms Boothman said.
“It is vital that we ensure our children’s wellbeing is closely monitored as they grow and develop.
“Through their involvement in the health study we will be able to provide much better support and evidence that we will need to advocate for the wider community.”
Families involved in the Schools Study will receive a $25 gift card for their time and any inconvenience caused.
The study is taking place in 18 local schools which support the study and are in the process of writing to all families of grade 3 children inviting them to participate.