Tailored education to improve bushfire-related health outcomes for older Tasmanians
Spectacular bushland is never far from our doorsteps in Tasmania, but as a result, we are threatened with bushfires every summer. This can be acutely stressful and may increase dementia risk by disrupting our physical and mental health.
At the Wicking Dementia Centre, we have a unique opportunity to help older Tasmanians understand and mitigate risks such as stress and smoke exposure which are associated with bushfire. Researchers from the Wicking Dementia Centre, the School of Psychological Sciences and the Environmental Health Team at the Menzies Institute are teaming up to develop a short course aimed at reducing bushfire health risks and increasing preparedness among older Tasmanians in the ISLAND Project.
Recently, the team was successful in attracting funding from the Natural Disaster Risk Reduction Grants Program to develop and implement the short course, called ‘Bushfires and Your Health’, in the ISLAND cohort. The short course will build knowledge about bushfire risks among participants, with a focus on using this knowledge to increase bushfire preparedness. The short course will build knowledge about bushfire risks among participants, with a focus on using this knowledge to increase bushfire preparedness. The project will also lay the foundation for a new understanding of specific mental and physical health risks associated with different types of bushfire exposure including vicarious trauma and stress. The project will initially be for one year, but the team’s vision is to extend this into an ongoing project which measures the success of the short course, adapts it to health needs of vulnerable groups and extends it to Tasmanians of all ages.