Study Timeline

The study commenced in November 2014 and is now in it's 6th year. The various research streams rolled out at different times and targeted different groups of people and health outcomes. An overview of the timelines for the various streams is provided below.

Research streams:

Community Wellbeing

In the period 2015-2017 the Community Wellbeing Stream undertook extensive data collection comprising interviews (individual interviews and focus group discussions) with a total of 85 people, and analysis of 1,096 media reports and 1,709 social media posts. Two substantive volumes of findings have been presented, and these are available on the Fact Sheets Summaries and Study Reports pages. The participatory action research phase of the Stream’s year 3 activities culminated in a photographic exhibition “Our Hopes for the Future of Morwell”. This display of 28 images of objects that symbolised community hopes for the future of Morwell, has been exhibited at the Switchback Gallery at Federation University, Churchill (November 2017, Queen’s Hall, State Parliament (May 2018), MidValley Shopping Centre (December 2018) and at the 2019 Ballarat International Foto Biennale (October 2019). An online slideshow of the photographs in the exhibition can be seen here.

In 2020-2021, the Community Wellbeing Stream aims to continue to assess perceptions of the community’s wellbeing and recovery after the Hazelwood mine fire, taking into account subsequent events (e.g. the closure of the Hazelwood power station and Morwell mine and other large local employers, the January 2020 mega fires and recent health initiatives (such as the Latrobe Health Innovation Zone, Latrobe Health Assembly and Latrobe Health Advocate).
The stream also plans to develop a “community wellbeing barometer” that brings together community perceptions of wellbeing and existing community wellbeing indicator proxy measures. The aim of the barometer is to provide a holistic tool to capture the changes in key dimensions that underpin community wellbeing. Finally, the stream aims to examine the relationship between community wellbeing and personal wellbeing (in conjunction with the Psychological Impacts stream).

The Latrobe ELF Study

More than 500 eligible infants and their parents, from across the Latrobe Valley, were enrolled in the Latrobe ELF Study between 2015 and 2016. Initially, parents completed a health survey in regard to their children’s health and a time location diary from which to estimate mine fire smoke exposure. Since the initial survey, many parents have continued to provide monthly symptom diaries in regard to their children’s health. In 2017 more than 200 infants undertook vascular testing and more than 100 underwent lung function testing. A number of reports, research summaries and publications describing findings are available on the Study Findings page. In 2020 a second round of vascular and lung function testing was planned, this time including children who were too young for these tests in 2017. However the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in that testing being rescheduled for 2021.

Older People

Focus group discussions with community members along with interviews with key stakeholders were completed in 2016. A brief summary of the findings and a more detailed report were provided in early 2017. These documents are available on the Study Findings page. The Older People Stream has since merged with Community Wellbeing, Psychological Impacts and Adult Survey streams which include a focus on the health and wellbeing of older people.

Psychological Impacts

Schools Study: Data collection from students in 22 participating schools across the Latrobe Valley was undertaken in 2015 and 2018. Several reports and publications arising from this research can be found on the Fact Sheets and Summaries and the Study Findings pages.

Adult Psychological Impacts: Follow up data collection from 693  Adult Survey participants took place between December 2019 and March 2020. The findings will be available late 2020.

Adult Survey

Recruitment into the Adult Survey took place between May 2016 and February 2017, with approximately 4000 people participating. Two technical reports describing findings, Adult Survey Volumes 1 and 2 have been released are available on the Fact Sheets and Summaries and Study Findings pages. A large number of Adult Survey participants have since participated in follow up testing as part of the Respiratory Stream and Cardiovascular Stream.

Respiratory Stream

The Respiratory Stream undertook follow up clinical testing on 519 Adult Survey participants between August 2017 and March 2018. Findings in relation to smoke exposure and asthma in this group can be found on the Fact Sheets and Summaries page. Further follow up testing of this group is planned for late 2020, however COVID-19 restrictions may delay that until 2021.

Cardiovascular Stream

The Cardiovascular Stream undertook follow up clinical testing on 498 Adult Survey participants between October 2017 and May 2018. Findings in relation to smoke exposure, blood pressure (hypertension) and heart health in this group can be found on the Fact Sheets and Summaries page.

Air quality assessment

The air quality team at the CSIRO have completed extensive analysis of the smoke plume from the mine fire including:

  • how far the smoke travelled and how often the smoke passed over different towns in the Latrobe Valley and the broader Gippsland region for the duration of the fire
  • the pollutants in the smoke including particles smaller than 2.5 μm (PM2.5) and smaller than 10 μm (PM10), carbon monoxide (CO), ozone (O3), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulphur dioxide (SO2), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) (e.g. benzene and formaldehyde), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs),
  • modelled estimates of the concentrations of two major pollutants, PM2.5 and CO, experienced by nearby communities..

CSIRO used weather information such as wind direction, wind speed and temperature, combined with an estimate of how much coal was burned each day during the fire using fire activity maps provided by the Country Fire Authority. Air quality measurements made by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) Victoria near the fire location were used to calculate the amount of PM2.5 and CO released per unit mass of burning coal. All this information was put into computer models to predict the levels of PM2.5 and CO in the Latrobe Valley for the duration of the fire. This information is available on the Reports and Fact Sheets and Summaries pages.

Hazelinks

Throughout the period 2015-2019, the Hazelinks Stream has obtained data which have assisted in describing ambulance callouts, hospital emergency department presentations and hospital admissions, health service use, pharmaceutical/medication use, background (pre-mine fire) cancer rates and post mine fire death rates in the local region A number of reports, research summaries and publications describing findings are available on the Fact Sheets and Summaries and Study Findings pages. It is anticipated that Hazelinks will continue to obtain updated data from these sources until at least 2023.