Hazelwood study uses Sale

SOME Sale residents are being asked to contribute to the large-scale Hazelwood Health Study by participating in a survey about the long-term health effects of the Hazelwood Mine Fire.

The fire in the Morwell open cut mine adjacent to the Hazelwood power station blanketed Morwell and the surrounding area in smoke and ash for six weeks in February and March 2014. 

Sale was minimally exposed, compared with Morwell, so it was selected as a comparison town in the Monash University-led long-term health study.

To focus its efforts, the study team will target selected areas of Sale. 

Five areas with a similar profile to Morwell have been identified and one area will be targeted each month until late this year.

Information flyers have been delivered to households in the first targeted area bordered by Cobains Rd, Gibsons Rd, Guthridge Parade, Raglan St and Buckley St.

Invitation packs will be mailed to eligible adults who were registered on the Victorian Electoral Roll as living within this part of Sale at the time of the Hazelwood Mine Fire.

Participation in the survey involves completing a questionnaire over the phone or online, which takes about 30 minutes. 

The questionnaire asks about cardiovascular and respiratory health, place of residence and whereabouts during the mine fire, as well as giving the researchers permission to access health records.

Principal co-investigator Professor Judi Walker said the survey was the one of the most significant stages of the Hazelwood Health Study. 

“The survey’s success depends on the participation of as many eligible adults as possible in the targeted areas of Sale and all of Morwell,” she said. 

“We want to hear from these people whether they are young, old, well or unwell, regardless of whether they think they were impacted by the smoke event or not and even if they were away at the time of the fire.” 

Those who choose to participate will be compensated for their time with a $20 Shop in Sale E-voucher, redeemable at a range of local businesses. 

“The study team chose this voucher to ensure the money remains in the local economy and supports this region,” Professor Walker said.

“We are relying on the goodwill of Sale residents to help us properly evaluate the effect of the smoke event on people’s health. 

“We are also confident that the health data we collect will be of long-term benefit to health and emergency management services in Sale, Morwell and right across Gippsland.”

Professor Walker said Sale was chosen as the comparison town as it was comparable to Morwell in size, rural location and age of residents. 

“In addition, we were keen to select another Gippsland town so we could understand the impacts of this fire across the broader Gippsland region,” she said.

Leader of the internationally renowned health research team, Professor Michael Abramson, said the survey was the largest part of the multi-stream Hazelwood Health Study and the final stream to roll out. 

Other parts of the study are already underway in Morwell and other Latrobe Valley towns, targeting babies and toddlers, school-aged children, older adults and community wellbeing.

“This study was commissioned by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services in response to community concerns,” Professor Abramson said. 

“It is a long-term study and as it progresses it will provide vital evidence to the local health sector, informing its policy, planning and actions into the future.”

For more information on the survey phone 1800 985 899 (toll free) or visit http://hazelwoodhealthstudy.org.au/research-areas/adult-survey/adult-survey-faqs/.