Input sought for health study

Morwell residents will be asked to play a critical role in the long-term health impacts study of the Hazelwood mine fire, recently awarded to Monash University.

The university will call for participation in a Community Advisory Committee early in the new year, and release details of an extensive baseline survey in which the researchers hope all adults in Morwell will participate.

Monash School of Rural Health Professor Judi Walker said with the school’s strong presence across the Latrobe Valley, it understood the importance of ensuring the local community was provided with multiple opportunities to have input into the study’s operations and distribution of its findings. She said the community would be kept up-to-date via newsletters, a dedicated study website and community briefings.

“A Clinical Reference Group will also be established bringing together key local health service personnel involved in responding to the smoke event and in supporting the ongoing health and wellbeing of the local community,” Professor Walker said.

The baseline questionnaire, collecting details such as pre-existing health conditions, lifestyle factors including smoking and an individual’s level of exposure during the smoke event, as well as any associated distress, will form the basis for much of the study’s ongoing research.

“People will be able to complete the baseline survey over the phone, online or in printed forms,” Professor Walker said.

The local study project headquarters will be at the School of Rural Health’s Latrobe Valley academic site at Latrobe Regional Hospital.

Professor Walker said local personnel would be recruited as part of the research, administrative and fieldwork teams, helping to strengthen local connections and build capacity in the region.