Effects of bushfire smoke

Effects of bushfire smoke

Catchment data from POLAR GP is used to conceptualise effects of recent bushfires

12 February, 2020

General practices who use POLAR GP are already reaping the benefits of this data insights tool and making improvements to their practice as a result of resources such as the POLAR Practice Reports. An example of this data in use at a catchment level is seen in a recent report Outcome Health prepared to conceptualise the effects of the recent and ongoing bushfires. The data from POLAR GP compares the first four weeks of 2020 - which saw an acute period of fire and smokes - with 2019.   

What the report found:

  • There was a significant increase in respiratory-related presentations to general practices.
  • New respiratory diagnosis increased by 66% and new asthma diagnosis increased by 94%.
  • There was a decrease in visits to the GP for people with an existing respiratory group diagnosis. This may mean that people with an existing diagnosis were more aware or more likely to have used preventative measures as opposed to people who did not have a previous diagnosis.
  • Currently, there is no significant difference between respiratory infection rates, or mental health presentations and prescriptions.

Some of these impacts are likely only to be visible over the medium to longer term, beyond the initial exposure. The potential impacts of bushfire will likely include conditions such as:

  • immediate trauma related mental health conditions
  • immediate & short term respiratory condition exacerbation
  • short to medium term, lung infections (post initial irritant)
  • longer term increase in respiratory related conditions
  • longer term increase in mental health conditions.

If you would like to read this report, email comms@emphn.org.au