The study commenced in November 2014 and is now in it's 8th 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.
In the period 2015-2017 the Community Wellbeing Stream undertook extensive data collection including interviews, focus groups and analysis of media and social media. Two volumes of findings are available on the Fact Sheets Summaries and Study Reports pages. The work culminated in the “Our Hopes for the Future of Morwell” photographic exhibition which has been exhibited at the Switchback Gallery at Federation University, Churchill (November 2017), Queen’s Hall, State Parliament (May 2018), Mid-Valley 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 the COVID-19 pandemic), as well as recent health initiatives (such as the Latrobe Health Innovation Zone, Latrobe Health Assembly and Latrobe Health Advocate).
|The Latrobe ELF Study|
More than 500 eligible infants and their parents, from across the Latrobe Valley, were enrolled in the Latrobe ELF (Early Life Follow up) 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 resulted in that testing being rescheduled to 2021. In 2021 the second round of testing was undertaken and has now been completed.
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.
Schools Study: Data collection from students in 22 participating schools across the Latrobe Valley was undertaken in 2015 and 2017. Several reports and publications arising from this research can be found on the Fact Sheets and Summaries and the Study Findings pages. Further analysis and reporting is ongoing, including looking at educational outcomes using NAPLAN data.
Adult Psychological Impacts: Adult Survey participants who were residents in Morwell at the time of the mine fire were invited to complete a follow-up survey of mental health and wellbeing. Over 700 people participated in the survey which took place between December 2019 and March 2020. The first report became available in 2020 with further findings expected to be released in 2022.
ELF (Early Life Follow up) Study: The Psychological Impacts stream will be working with the ELF stream to look at the mental health and wellbeing of families participating in the ELF study. Because of delays due to COVID-19, this work is expected to take place early in 2022.
Recruitment into the Adult Survey took place between May 2016 and February 2017, with approximately 4000 people participating. Two technical reports describing the 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. As noted above, Morwell participants were also invited to participate in a follow-up survey of mental health and wellbeing. Further assessments are planned in 2022 and beyond.
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 was planned for late 2020, however COVID-19 restrictions meant that this was delayed until 2021. The second round of testing was completed in the latter half of 2021 and is to be followed by a third and final round of testing. In addition, ongoing respiratory outcomes will be assessed through the Hazelinks 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. Ongoing cardiovascular outcomes are being assessed by the Hazelinks stream.
|Air quality assessment|
The air quality team at the CSIRO have completed extensive analysis of the smoke plume from the mine fire including:
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 modelling 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.
Throughout the period 2015-2020, the Hazelinks Stream has obtained data which has 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 the 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. As part of this work, the stream will work with other streams to report on mental health, respiratory and cardiovascular outcomes.