What is Bushfire Impact Research Grant Opportunity?

The Bushfire Impact Research Grant Opportunity is an initiative of the Medical Research Future Fund Emerging Priorities and Consumer Driven Research (EPCDR) which aims to link researchers, institutions, policy makers and professional associations together to gather evidence on the physiological and mental health effects of bushfires and exposure to hazardous smoke over time.

Background

The 2019-20 bushfire events have warranted concerns about the long-term health impacts of exposure to toxic ash, environmental contaminants and on-going mental health stresses. Reduced air quality due to smoke haze has created a significant public health issue, affecting large parts of Australia. An increasing number of studies indicate that continuous exposure to hazardous air quality can have broad impacts on human health including respiratory, cardiovascular, neurological, metabolic, reproductive and developmental health. There is also evidence that significant disasters such as widespread bushfire events contribute to impaired mental health and social disruption. The stress that bushfires place on first responders, their families, and on those who have had to evacuate their communities or lost loved ones, homes and businesses can lead to mental health challenges including anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Support from close friends and family, social networks and community groups are identified as important influences in bushfire resilience and recovery.

Applications under Stream 1 of this grant opportunity must address evidence gaps related to the physiological effects of prolonged exposure to the 2019-20 bushfire events and hazardous bushfire smoke.

Applications under Stream 2 of this grant opportunity must address evidence gaps related to building mental health resilience following the 2019-20 bushfire events and exposure to hazardous bushfire smoke.

Objectives

Stream 1 – Physiological impacts of prolonged bushfire smoke exposure

The objectives of this stream are to:

  • address gaps in evidence on the physiological impacts of prolonged bushfire smoke exposure on human health and whether short term health effects resolve after cessation of exposure
  • assess the effectiveness of preventative public health measures deployed during prolonged exposure to bushfire smoke at the individual and community levels, including the effectiveness of exposure reduction methods (e.g. P2/N95 facemasks, air purifiers, no outdoor activities)
  • assess the effectiveness of current preventative public health measures in reducing exposure (e.g. health messaging) and develop updated guidance for consumers, health practitioners, service providers and frontline health workers
  • collect data from diverse populations including first responders, vulnerable groups (e.g. pregnant women, elderly, young children, asthmatics, athletes/recreational sports players and outdoor workers), socioeconomic demographic data, and locations (e.g bushfire impacted and heavy
    smoke exposure areas) and chemical components of smoke to identify high risk areas to human health
  • provide evidence to inform studies into the health impacts of increased frequency exposure to bushfires and hazardous smoke.

Stream 2 – Mental health impacts of bushfires on affected communities

The objectives of this stream are to:

  • assess the acute and longer term mental health and behavioural impacts of the 2019-20 bushfire events on individuals (e.g. emergency evacuation, displacement, loss of life and property such as houses, animals, habitats etc) and the community (e.g. community cohesion, economic impacts)
  • collect and analyse evidence and data on the coping and resilience building strategies used byindividuals (including tourists), first responders, and communities in bushfire impacted or heavily affected bushfire smoke regions
  • provide evidence to inform preparation and delivery of mental health services in the future that will promote positive outcomes for individuals and communities.

To be competitive for funding, applicants must propose to conduct research that delivers against the above objectives for one or both of the streams.

The intended outcomes of this grant opportunity are:

  • to provide a comprehensive snapshot of the effects of the 2019-20 bushfire events and prolonged bushfire smoke exposure on human, physiological, psychological and behavioural health
  • provide data and evidence to inform future studies that assess the broader health impacts of prolonged bushfire smoke events
  • provide data and evidence that can be used to inform bushfire preparedness and response efforts and public health advice
  • provide a better understanding of the mental health and behavioural impacts of the 2019-20 bush fire events and prolonged bushfire smoke exposure on individuals and communities and how this could aid future preparedness, response and recovery.

Funding

The Australian Government has announced a total of $633 million for the EPCDR Initiative. For this grant opportunity, up to $5 million of funding is available in 2019-20. This funding is split between two funding streams. Funding cannot be moved between streams.

There is no maximum grant amount but grants cannot exceed the amount of available funds in each stream.

Eligible Projects

To be eligible, activities in your Grant Proposal must clearly demonstrate their criticality in meeting objectives of the Bushfire Impact Research Grant Opportunity. You can only spend grant funds to pursue the research activities described in your Grant Proposal. You can use the grant to pay costs that arise directly from these activities. The following categories must be used in your proposed budget:

  • Equipment
  • Personnel (personnel support packages)
  • Other Direct Research Costs (DRCs).

Rules apply to each category of expenditure. Applicants are required to justify the budget requested for each year of the proposed research. Your budget, including your justification of the proposed expenditure, will be part of the value and risk assessment. Refer sections 5.4 and 6.4 of the guidelines.

Eligible Applicants

To be eligible you must:

  • be an NHMRC approved Administering Institution
  • have an Australian Business Number (ABN)
  • be incorporated in Australia

and in accordance with s20 and s24 of the Medical Research Future Fund Act 2015, be one of the following entities:

  • a medical research institute
  • a university
  • a corporate Commonwealth entity
  • a corporation (including businesses and not for profits)
  • a state or territory government, or
  • a state of territory government entity

Joint applications are encouraged, provided you have a lead organisation who is the main driver of the project and is eligible to apply.

Timing

Applications close 31 January 2020.

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