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New funding for pollen monitoring and thunderstorm asthma research

Government has released the preliminary report from the Inspector-General for Emergency Management (IGEM) into the unprecedented thunderstorm asthma event of 21 and 22 November 2016.

Read the Victorian Government media release below.

1 February 2017

The Andrews Labor Government will fund new research to better understand and predict the phenomenon of thunderstorm asthma, as well as a new and expanded pollen monitoring network as part of a $1 million package.

Minister for Health Jill Hennessy today released the preliminary report from the Inspector-General for Emergency Management into the unprecedented thunderstorm asthma event of 21 and 22 November 2016.

The report found that never before had Victoria experienced a rapid-onset event of this scale, and never before had our ambulance services and hospitals experienced such demand in such a condensed time period and across such a large geographical area.

It notes that thunderstorm asthma is not well understood, nor are the factors that enable thunderstorm asthma events to be predicted.

To ensure we are armed with the best information and the best science to better understand, predict and respond to events like this in the future, we are investing $700,000 to support research into the underlying causes of thunderstorm asthma and the best processes for forecasting these events.

We will also spend $300,000 to expand the state’s current pollen monitoring network. Agencies will be invited to tender for five more monitoring sites from October, and this data will be used as part of the new research.

The expanded pollen monitoring service in Victoria will:

  • Help understand the phenomenon of thunderstorm asthma and better forecast the risk
  • Help more Victorians better manage their hay fever and asthma
  • Provide the Victorian community with information to assist susceptible groups
  • Educate Victorians about the trigger for asthma and hay fever, encouraging use of their prescribed medications and asthma action plans

The pollen season is over in Victoria for this season and we do not expect to see thunderstorm activity triggering asthma or similar respiratory problems.

There will also be a major overhaul of the way the Department of Health and Human Services manages and escalates emergency situations into the future, and the State Health Emergency Response Plan (SHERP) is being revised and rewritten.

The Inspector-General for Emergency Management will provide a final report to the Government by late April.

Quotes attributable to the Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Jill Hennessy

“Our thoughts and condolences go out to the many families affected by this extraordinary event.”

“We want to assure all Victorians that every lesson to be learnt will be learnt, and the right systems, resources and measures will be put in place so we can better prepare for, and respond to similar events like this in the future.”

“More research and expanded pollen monitoring will make sure we have the best information and science to better predict thunderstorm asthma events ahead of this year’s pollen season.”