Background: Natural disasters represent an increasing threat both in terms of incidence and severity as a result of climate change. Although much is known about individual responses to disasters, much less is known about the social and contextual response and how this interacts with individual trajectories in terms of mental health, wellbeing and social connectedness. The 2009 bushfires in Victoria, Australia caused much loss of life, property destruction, and community disturbance. In order to progress future preparedness, response and recovery, it is crucial to measure and understand the impact of disasters at both individual and community levels. Methods/design. This study aims to profile the range of mental health, wellbeing and social impacts of the Victorian 2009 bushfires over time using multiple methodologies and involving multiple community partners. A diversity of communities including bushfire affected and unaffected will be involved in the study and will include current and former residents (at the time of the Feb 2009 fires). Participants will be surveyed in 2012, 2014 and, funding permitting, in 2016 to map the predictors and outcomes of mental health, wellbeing and social functioning. Ongoing community visits, as well as interviews and focus group discussions in 2013 and 2014, will provide both contextual information and evidence of changing individual and community experiences in the medium to long term post disaster. The study will include adults, adolescents and children over the age of 5. Discussion. Conducting the study over five years and focussing on the role of social networks will provide new insights into the interplay between individual and community factors and their influence on recovery from natural disaster over time. The study findings will thereby expand understanding of long term disaster recovery needs for individuals and communities.
- Community-based participatory research
- Epidemiologic methods
- Mental health
- Qualitative research
- Social networks