The Hazelwood Health Study will be a long and complex study so we are sure that many community members will have questions about the study. Some of these questions have already been answered below but we encourage people to contact us with any additional questions that they may have.
You can either call the study information line on 1800 985 899, email the study team at firstname.lastname@example.org or submit a question via this website here.
What is the study about?
- The study is about identifying potential health outcomes in the community which may have resulted from the mine fire smoke. These might include heart and lung disease, cancer or mental health problems.
- Health outcomes in vulnerable groups, such as infants and children, young people, and older people, are of particular interest.
- All residents in the Latrobe Valley and the wider region will benefit from the Hazelwood Health Study, not only those who participate directly in the surveys. In addition to addressing community concerns about the impacts of the smoke event, the study will collect considerable information about the health and health service use of the local community which will inform future health policy and planning for the region.
How was the scope of the study determined?
- We are covering the priority health issues identified by the Department of Health and Human Services during community consultation sessions in Morwell in May 2014. We are working to a tight budget awarded by competitive tendering. While the budget might seem large to some people, it has to be used efficiently to achieve the aims of the study over a long time period. It is possible that future studies may be funded to build upon the Hazelwood Health Study and target other areas of importance.
Which towns are being included?
- Air pollution exposure modelling shows that Morwell was the most exposed to fine particles from the Hazelwood mine fire with lower exposure across the Latrobe Valley and beyond.
- For the Adult Survey and the associated health assessments it is important that we focus on Morwell as the town which received the highest exposure level as this will maximise our chance of identifying significant health outcomes. Air pollution exposure modelling has been used to identify Sale as a suitable comparison community with less exposure to the Hazelwood mine fire smoke. Comparisons between the health of Morwell and Sale residents will allow us to identify any differences in health outcomes that may be attributed to the smoke exposure. Detailed exposure modelling for the Latrobe Valley and beyond will enable us to estimate the health outcomes for other areas.
- The Latrobe ELF Study, the Schools Study and the Older People stream will cover the entire Latrobe Valley. The Community Wellbeing stream covers the broader Latrobe Valley and beyond, including an analysis of print, radio and social media which includes state and national media.
What is happening and when?
- All Study streams have completed their first round of data collection, which took place at different times and locations in 2016 and 2017 in order to fit in with each other and reduce the burden on the community members and the research team. All streams are now progressing into the follow up stages. More details are available on the Study Timeline page.
Who should participate?
- The Adult Survey, Schools Study and Latrobe ELF Study each have criteria that define who is eligible to participate. If you are eligible to participate in these studies, you will have received an invitation in the mail or, in the case of the School Study, from your school.
- It is critically important that as many eligible people as possible participate in the research, regardless of whether or not they believe their health was impacted by the smoke event. This will enable us to better understand the impacts of the smoke event across the community. We hope that everybody who is invited agrees to participate. In addition to receiving an invitation in the mail to participate in specific studies, the Older People and Community Wellbeing streams have been holding focus groups to which community members are invited through advertisements in the newspapers and on this website. These streams also hold meetings with existing community groups.
- It is not possible, nor necessary, for the Hazelwood Health Study to interview every person who was in the Latrobe Valley during the mine fire. If as many eligible people as possible participate in the study streams, then they will provide sufficient information about the pattern of health in highly exposed versus less exposed people, which can then be generalised to other community members. The inclusion of additional people in the study streams will make the study larger, more complex, take longer and be more expensive, but will not add value to the results.
I have current concerns about my health. What do I do?
- The study is not about providing medical assistance. Residents with current concerns about their health are encouraged to seek assistance from their local general practitioner.
How will the community have input into the study?
- The study was established in response to the concerns of the local community so it is important that the study team hears from and works in partnership with the community. A Community Advisory Committee has been established involving members of the local community and representatives of key health and service organisations. Local input is also critical to the operations of the Clinical Reference Group (which includes local health practitioners) and the Scientific Reference Group. In addition to these formal structures, the team is committed to frequent and ongoing consultations across the community.
- The involvement of local health practitioners and experts in the Clinical and Scientific Reference Groups will ensure that we have a full understanding of the events surrounding the mine fire and the health response. These groups will also play a key role in making sure that study findings are taken up into policy and practice locally and more widely, improving the response to any future emergency events as well as helping to provide a more locally targeted health service system.
- A core aspect of community engagement will be our commitment to providing regular updates to the community as the study progresses. We speak regularly with community groups and are keen to speak at other community events. We will provide regular updates through the local media (newspaper, TV, radio), as well as keep people updated through our website and social media.
Who are the researchers?
- Although funded by the Victorian Government, the Hazelwood Health Study is led by independent researchers from Monash University in collaboration with Federation University, University of Tasmania, University of Adelaide, and the CSIRO.
- The study team is made up of highly experienced researchers with a strong track record of conducting public health research. The team members bring together expertise in multiple areas including epidemiology, environmental health risk assessment, toxicology, air quality, psychology, health policy and community resilience with between 11 and 40 years of research experience individually. In addition to the core team members, we are also able to capitalise on the skills and experience of other leading experts who comprise our Scientific Reference Group.
What data are being collected?
- The Adult Survey has collected information such as respiratory and cardiovascular health and other medical conditions, wellbeing and psychological health, level of exposure to the mine fire smoke and health risk factors such as smoking history and work history.
- The Psychological Impacts Stream adult component collected information on psychological health via the 2016-2017 Adult Survey. During November 2019-February 2020 this Stream conducted a follow-up survey which repeated core psychological measures from the original Adult Survey and introduced new measures including resilience and social isolation.
- The Latrobe Early Life Follow up (ELF) Study is continuing to collect information about birthweight, lung, heart and blood vessel health and development, and common minor illnesses in infants born between before, during and after the mine fire event.
- The Adult Survey, Hazelinks and the Latrobe ELF Study are all collecting health service use records, such as those collected by Medicare, Ambulance Victoria and hospitals, and also information about cancers and deaths from databases maintained by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
- The Psychological Impacts Stream Schools Study has measured psychological and wellbeing outcomes in school children and is continuing to measure educational performance.
- The Older People stream has gathered information on the impacts of the mine fire on older people through group discussions with older people and their carer's, interviews with stakeholders involved in supporting older people, and a review of the policy decisions made during the event.
- The Community Wellbeing stream continues to gather community perceptions of the mine fire event’s impact on the community wellbeing, the effectiveness of rebuilding activities and the elements needed for effective communication during and after an event such as the mine fire.
- The Respiratory Stream invited Adult Survey participants to attend a clinic where a number of tests of lung health were administered. These included:
- measurement of nitric oxide in exhaled breath which is a marker of inflammation in the lungs.
- measurements of lung function such as airway narrowing and stiffness.
- spirometry: a measure of how hard and fast you are able to blow air in and out of the lungs.
- measurement of gas transfer which assesses how well gases such as oxygen can move from the lungs into the blood.
- The Cardiovascular Stream invited Adult Survey participants to attend a clinic where a number of tests of heart and blood vessel health were administered. These included:
- a questionnaire about heart health, family history of heart disease, the use of any medications for your heart, and smoking, diet and exercise history.
- physical measurements of weight, waist and hip measurements which contribute to risk of heart disease.
- blood pressure and heart rate.
- electrical activity of the heart via electrocardiography (ECG)
- measurements of the stiffness of veins,
- Blood markers which determine risk of heart disease, such as the blood’s clotting ability, markers of heart failure, cholesterol, blood glucose and kidney function.
How will my privacy be protected?
- The Hazelwood Health Study is bound by Commonwealth and State privacy legislation. All information collected will be treated with absolute confidentiality and used for health research only. All identified data will be held securely to ensure total security, confidentiality and anonymity. Nothing that would identify individual participants will be released publicly.
How will the community hear about the study outcomes?
- Findings will be released as soon as they become available. The first findings have already been released and can be found on the Study findings page.