Bushfire Smoke and Children's Health-Exploring a Communication Gap

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022 Sep 29;19(19):12436. doi: 10.3390/ijerph191912436.


The "Black Summer" bushfires of 2019/2020 in Australia generated smoke that persisted for over three months, mainly affecting Eastern Australia. Most communication strategies focused on the fire itself, revealing a knowledge gap in effective communication of the impact of bushfire smoke on health, especially for children and those living in non-English speaking minority groups. To address this, semi-structured qualitative interviews were undertaken with sixteen adults with caring (n = 11) or educational (n = 5) responsibilities for primary-school aged children (5-12 years, with some also having children up to 16 years) who had direct experience of the "Black Summer" bushfires. Overall, 43% (n = 7) of the sample spoke English as a first language, 25% (n = 4) spoke Turkish, with the remainder speaking Persian, Arabic, and Spanish. Thematic inductive qualitative content analysis revealed predominant themes of the role of parents and caregivers as conduits and curators of information. Air quality apps were the most common source of information. Language barriers and the lack of child-friendly methods of communication were highlighted as particular challenges. This qualitative study provides evidence for future development of communication strategies to better serve culturally and linguistically diverse individuals and the children in their care.

Keywords: air pollution; communication; health literacy; wildfires.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Health*
  • Communication
  • Communication Barriers
  • Humans
  • Language
  • Qualitative Research
  • Smoke*


  • Smoke

Grant support

This research was funded by the Australian National University Research School of Social Sciences Cross-college research grant. The research team has also received funding from Asthma Australia Translation Research Grant on Air Quality (Healthy-Air).