The summer of 2019/20 saw record breaking bushfires that some have dubbed the “black summer”. More than 10 million hectares of the local environment was devastated and around 3,000 homes were lost. Canberra had the worst air quality in the world this January. Since the bushfires, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we live and interact with each other. Amongst all of this, a new generation of Australians are being brought into the world. A healthy start to life is important for long term health and wellbeing. How has the health of mothers and babies in the ACT and South-Eastern NSW been impacted by these 2020 events?
The Mother and Child 2020 Study is a collaborative project involving multiple Universities, Local Health Districts and Aboriginal Health Services in the ACT/Southeast NSW region. This area is covered by the HealthANSWERS Partnership. Many of the study team are healthcare practitioners who were concerned that they didn’t have clear evidenced based answers to give patients, who were pregnant during the bushfires, about the potential impact of the smoke on babies.
MC2020 is a longitudinal cohort study, in simple terms this means recruiting participants with a shared characteristic and following them over a period of time. The study will recruit mother-child pairs in the ACT & SE-NSW who were within 3 months of conceiving, pregnant (all trimesters), or within 3 months of childbirth on 1st February 2020. The same population will have now been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, so the project has adapted to include these circumstances as well. The effects of the bushfire on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and their babies will be given particular focus as this group has been severely affected within this region.
It is hoped that better understanding of the impact of these two crises on the health of mothers and babies will inform the design of interventions to improve the outcomes of those most affected, now and in future years
There are 4 questionnaires and the option to consent to data linkage, which gives the study access to limited medical information about the health of the child up to 5 years of age. This medical information would be collected as part of normal child health checks and therefore this requires no extra action from participants, only consent. Participants can also consent to being contacted about qualitative research (focus groups) if they would like to say more. More details can be found HERE