From bushfire smoke to COVID-19, staff and students at the ANU College of Health and Medicine have been working on solutions to safeguard the health and wellbeing of our nation. The outcomes of their work are already taking shape.
Beginning earlier this year, the Mother and Child 2020 (MC2020) survey found that seven-in-10 pregnant women and new mothers in the ACT and southeast New South Wales say they were severely exposed to bushfire smoke in our recent summer. Almost nine-in-10 said they isolated themselves and their family at some point this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These valuable findings will be used to form a series of recommendations on how to improve our health system and emergency responses during major crises.
Children are among the most affected when it comes to trauma caused Australia's bushfires. Research has found they do not have to personally witness an event to feel scared, angry, confused or overwhelmed. Experts at the College have developed a freely accessible community trauma toolkit, which contains a suite of resources to help support adults and children before, during and after bushfires.
Other resources being developed for children include a picture book about bushfire smoke that can be used as a tool to discuss a traumatic event with children.
ANU has published freely accessible fact sheets providing practical ways to help beat the health hazards of smoke haze. This important resources was developed by leading air quality and health expert Professor Sotiris Vardoulakis from the ANU Research School of Population Health.
Professor Vardoulakis said there is an urgent need for more comprehensive and balanced health protection advice as Australians deal with unprecedented levels of bushfire smoke.
Mental health is another important area where ANU experts are providing crucial support through these difficult times. Researchers at ANU found rates of people with clinical level anxiety and depression were double normal population levels during Australia's initial lockdown in March 2020, and the spike was related to pandemic-induced financial and social problems.
These findings provide clear evidence that minimising social and financial disruption during the pandemic should be a central goal of public health policy.
While the ANU College of Health and Medicine has produced a great deal of outcomes already this year to support our community, their work continues. They are playing a crucial role in the recovery of our nation. You can support the next steps for recovery through research and expert lead solutions.
The challenges we face now and in the future can seem overwhelming, however work is already underway by the people who know how to find the solutions. If you want to be part of the solution, start here.