Our Hopes for the Future of Morwell exhibition on show at Mid Valley


AN exhibition featuring the hopes and dreams of the Morwell community is on show to the local community for the next two months.

Following successful showings at Switchback Gallery in Churchill last year, and at State Parliament in May this year, the ‘Our hopes for the future of Morwell’ photographic exhibition will be on show at Mid Valley Shopping Centre in Morwell.

The exhibition was developed by the Federation University-led Community Wellbeing research stream of the Hazelwood Health Study in collaboration with Morwell Neighbourhood House and Gippsland Centre for Art and Design at Federation University Australia.

It features 24 photographs of community groups and members holding objects symbolising their hopes for the future of Morwell.

The project came to fruition following extensive consultations with local groups about ways to strengthen community wellbeing and recovery post Hazelwood mine fire and power station closure.

Community groups and members chose to be photographed with images that symbolise their hopes for the future. The resulting photographic images express their contributions to a positive conversation about the future for Morwell.

“This exhibition evolved from research into recovery from the Hazelwood mine fire. We listened and clearly heard that people wanted to do something positive about Morwell and to be a part of the conversations about the future,” Health Study researcher Dr Sue Whyte said.

The photographs, taken by Clive Hutchison, also feature an accompanying caption written by each participating group describing what the object represents for them.

The exhibition will be on show from October through to early December.

“This exhibition is important because it demonstrates that this community, which has suffered a number of setbacks including the Hazelwood mine fire, and the subsequent closure of the mine and Hazelwood power station, is showing resilience and optimism in the face of adversity,” Dr Sue Yell, Community Wellbeing Research Lead and exhibition organiser, said.

Come and chat to a study team member at the Morwell Pop-Up Park in Tarwin Street Date: 23 April, 11 AM

In the lead up to the roll out of the Adult Survey study team members will be available at key community events in Morwell and Sale.

This will provide an opportunity for community members to chat with us about the progress of the study, the scope of the activities, and how the findings will be provided to the local community.

The first of these activities will be at the Morwell Pop-Up Park event at the top end of Tarwin Street Morwell on 23 April from 11 AM.

Residents interested in chatting with us are encouraged to come along to this event or to future ones which we will advertise on this Events page. We will be easy to spot with our study logo on display and wearing our study t-shirts.

We look forward to seeing you there.

Call for expressions of interest to join the Community Advisory Committee

Sale residents are invited to participate in the Adult Survey component of the Hazelwood Health Study.

If you are living in Sale and have an interest in the long term health outcomes of the mine fire and the health of the region, we strongly encourage you to respond to this call for expressions of interest regarding participation in the Community Advisory Committee.

The Community Advisory Committee (CAC) is the project’s primary advisory body. The purpose of the CAC is to ensure that the study works in partnership with Latrobe Valley community members, health and community service providers and local government in undertaking the research program.

Now that Sale has been identified as the comparison community, it is important to include representation from the Sale community, local government and health services.

If you are interested in joining the Community Advisory Committee, please view the flyer and read the CAC Protocol for further information, and complete and return the Expression of Interest form by Friday 27 November.

If you have any questions or would like further information, please call the study team on 5122 7151.

First findings focusing on children’s lung and blood vessel health released

A Hazelwood Health Study analysis has found weak evidence for a link between higher mine fire smoke exposure and small increases in lung stiffness in children who were aged up to two at the time of the fire. Lung stiffness was one of three indicators of lung health that were measured in the study.

The analysis also found weak evidence for a link between higher mine fire smoke exposure in children who were aged up to two at the time of the mine fire and slightly increased blood vessel stiffness, although these changes were very small.

Reassuringly, no associations were seen between mine fire smoke exposure and any of these health outcomes in children whose mothers were pregnant with them at the time of the fire. However the research did show that cigarette smoking during pregnancy was clearly linked with both blood vessel and lung changes in children.

HHS researcher Dr Fay Johnston cautioned that although the results were suggestive of a possible link between mine fire smoke exposure during infancy and lung or blood vessel health, the evidence was not strong.

“We cannot rule out the possibility that the results occurred by chance, or were due to other unmeasured factors that can affect blood vessel or lung health,” Dr Johnston said.

“We need to do further studies to confirm these results. It is possible that these results will change as children get older, so it is important to follow their progress to see if changes in lung or blood vessel function continue or go away.”

The lung tests were carried out on 105 children. They involved using small vibrations to see how easily air goes in and out while children breathed through a tube. The heart tests involved using ultrasounds to test the blood vessel thickness and stiffness of 248 children.

The research team estimated how much mine fire smoke each child had been exposed to by looking at where the child (or mother if pregnant at the time) was each day during the fire and how polluted the air in the area was.

This analysis was conducted by the Menzies Institute for Medical Research at the University of Tasmania as part of the larger, Monash University-led Hazelwood Health Study.

This research was funded by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services.

To view a summary of these findings, visit http://hazelwoodhealthstudy.org.au/study-findings/fact-sheets-and-summaries/ or to request a copy of the full technical reports, please call 1800 985 899 or email [email protected]

Coal mine fire-related air pollution increased health service use, study finds

Coal mine fire-related air pollutants from the 2014 Hazelwood mine fire have been linked to a rise in health service use and increased rates of dispensing prescription medications in the Latrobe Valley.

These findings were made after Hazelwood Health Study researchers related daily coal mine-fire related air pollution simulations conducted by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation to data provided by the Commonwealth Department of Human Services on health service use and prescription medication dispensed by pharmacists in the Latrobe Valley.

“It was estimated from 9 February 2014 to 10 March 2014 that there were an additional 5137 General Practitioner consultations, 405 cardiovascular visits, 174 respiratory visits and 286 mental health consultations attributed to coal mine-fire related PM2.5 (fine particles with a diameter of 2.5 thousandths of a millimetre or less) air pollution,” HHS researcher Associate Professor Yuming Guo said.

“We also estimated that an additional 2501 cardiovascular medications, 574 respiratory medications and 1429 mental health-related medications were dispensed as a result of the PM2.5 air pollution during the mine fire period.

“These findings showed clear evidence that PM2.5 air pollution was significantly associated with an estimated increase in health service use and the dispensing of respiratory, cardiovascular and mental health medications, however, the data were not enough to link any individual case to the fire.”

Associate Professor Guo said in this instance, the examination of air pollution was limited to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and did not include other possible pollutants such as carbon monoxide.

However, these findings will help fill in knowledge gaps that exist regarding the impact of open cut brown coal mine fire smoke exposure on health service and prescription medication usage.

“They will also be helpful in developing and introducing strategies to plan cardiovascular, respiratory and mental health services for any possible future coal mine fire air pollution in the Latrobe Valley or similar communities,” Associate Professor Guo said.

Researchers from the Monash University-led Hazelwood Health Study are also running clinical assessments in Morwell and Sale and conducting interviews that will further assess cardiovascular, respiratory and mental health in smoke-affected communities.

The Medicare Benefits Schedule and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme data: Time series analyses report is available here.

This research was funded by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services.

Hazelwood Health study completes first round of heart health testing in Morwell

The Hazelwood Health Study has completed heart and blood vessel health assessments in Morwell, testing more than 330 people.

Testing finished on April 30th and marked the end of the first phase of the study’s clinical assessments.

“Thank you to all the residents who took part in the assessments. The staff have appreciated your support and the time you committed to the testing,” Hazelwood Health Study Clinical Stream Coordinator Brigitte Borg said.

“The Morwell residents who participated in the testing will be invited to undergo the same assessments on two further occasions; once in 2020 and again three years from then.”

Ms Borg said the repeated assessments will help researchers look for changes in heart and blood vessel health over time in residents who lived in Morwell during the 2014 Hazelwood mine fire.

However, those who participated this time will be under no obligation to participate in the future.

As part of the assessment process, letters were sent to participants’ nominated GPs if their tests revealed anything unusual, such has high blood pressure.

Local GP, Dr Ian Webb, thanked the study for sending the reports that he said has helped with the ongoing treatment of his patients.

“The letters were very informative and encouraged further discussion between doctor and patient,” Dr Webb said.

“While we were aware of existing conditions in a number of instances, some of the assessments identified issues requiring further follow up with the patient.

“I appreciate the study’s work in ensuring anything out of the ordinary health-wise during the assessments was brought to our attention.”

Health assessments were also undertaken in the comparison community of Sale. Researchers will now begin analysing the data from these assessments, as well as the respiratory health assessments which finished earlier in the year, and expect to release findings associated with the testing later this year. For more information about the Hazelwood Health Study, visit www.hazelwoodhealthstudy.org.au

This research was funded by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services.

Key findings on the psychological impacts of the mine fire on students released

Morwell Central Primary School principal Justine Smyth and Hazelwood Health Study research Dr Matthew Carroll discuss the latest findings from the first round of the School Study.

Morwell Central Primary School principal Justine Smyth and Hazelwood Health Study researcher Dr Matthew Carroll discuss the latest findings from the first round of the Schools Study.

Students in Morwell reported more symptoms of distress following the Hazelwood mine fire than students outside the township, a Hazelwood Health Study research project has found.

The Schools Study, an arm of the long-term health study, looked at the psychological wellbeing and educational outcomes for students in 20 schools across the Latrobe Valley, targeting students in years 3, 5, 7 and 9 in the year after the mine fire.

The document released this week is a summary of the key findings from the first round of the study, including a measure of childhood distress, the change in NAPLAN results from 2013 before the fire to the year after the fire, and what students said to the researchers in interviews.

“While most students reported little or no psychological symptoms from the mine fire, one quarter of the students reported increased levels of distress,” Schools Study lead researcher and Monash University Professor Darryl Maybery said.

The research found there was a strong age effect, with younger students reporting more symptoms of distress than older students. Research co-lead Dr Matthew Carroll said this increase in the year after the mine fire was not surprising given the scale of the Hazelwood event.

“We know from talking with students that many found it unpleasant and some were still reporting impacts such as feeling alarmed when they smelt smoke,” Dr Carroll said.

“On the flipside, some students reported positive outcomes such as more school trips and the opportunity to connect with students from other schools.”

The research team also found that Morwell students had a greater increase in NAPLAN scores, from the year before to the year after the fire, than non-Morwell students.

Now, over three years after the event, the researchers are particularly interested in assessing the students again. The Schools Study will be inviting students, who participated in the first round of the study and are now in years 5, 7 and 9, to complete another survey.

“We will also be inviting current year 3 students from the participating schools to take part. This will allow us to look at whether there are any ongoing impacts in a younger age group, those who were around 5 years old at the time of the fire,” Dr Carroll said.

“We really hope that everybody who is approached about the study agrees to participate as we need as many students as possible. We are writing to all participating parents and schools thanking them for their participation last time, providing a copy of the key results, and informing them about what is happening this year.”

Click here to read the summary report.
Click here to learn more about the Schools Study.