The Australian Government is investing $5 million via the Medical Research Future Fund in nine research projects to investigate the physiological and mental health effects of the recent bushfires on Australians and their communities.
The devastating bushfire events have warranted concerns about the medium-term health impacts of exposure to ash and smoke haze, reduced air quality and ongoing mental health stresses.
The Government is taking a proactive approach to understand the potential medical and mental health needs of frontline responders and affected communities under two major research streams.
In the first stream, researchers will study the physiological impacts of prolonged bushfire smoke exposure. In the second stream, they will investigate and the mental health impacts of bushfires on affected communities.
Associate Professor David Lawrence from the University of Western Australia will follow the ongoing wellbeing and resilience of Australia's first responders following the 2019-20 bushfires.
Understanding the lived experience and strategies used by people to cope during these times will help preparedness planning for communities in future bushfire events.
The measures employed to reduce exposure to hazardous smoke and the effectiveness of exposure reduction methods will also be studied.
University of New South Wales Professor Raina MacIntyre and her team will run a randomised controlled trial to determine the impact of mask use on respiratory outcomes during the bushfire season.
This research will help Australia remain at the forefront of preparedness and recovery in the event of natural disasters, including bushfires.
The Government acknowledges the significant impact of COVID-19 on the health and medical research sector, which is critical for longer term health outcomes, jobs and economic growth.
I am pleased to announce that funding continues to be available for life saving research such as on the impacts of bushfires. In addition, the Australian Government has invested over $36 million in research for COVID-19, including on diagnostics, vaccines, antivirals, respiratory medicine clinical trials, and for evidence based guidelines.