August report for Environment, Climate and Health

5 August 2020

Keynote and invited presentations

Aparna Lal was invited to deliver a keynote presentation to Medical Faculty and students at the AVMC Medical School Pondicherry, India’s Future Frontiers series of talks. She talked about lessons from COVID-19 for managing our planet. There were over 360 participants.

Aparna Lal was invited by the ANU Climate Change Institute to talk about Climate Change and COVID-19 public health responses and challenges, along with Dr Arnagretta Hunter. There were over 100 participants.

Outreach and engagement

Aparna Lal was invited to be part of a podcast series – “Storytellers in STEMM”. She talked about diversity and inclusion.

Media releases/interest

ANU News “Authors needed for bushfire smoke children’s book” – press release available here

Related articles published in the Canberra Times and Canberra Weekly:

(RSPH involvement: Sotiris Vardoulakis, Erin Walsh, Ginny Sargent, Liz Drummond)

Aparna Lal, as part of the ACT sewage Surveillance group, had a media release and radio and some television coverage following this.

Jo Lane publish an article on “The importance of smiling behind the mask” in the Sydney Morning Herald and had a number of interview in relation to this:

Student news

"Communicating Through the Haze" research project carried out by three 3rd Year ANU Medical School students, co-supervised by Sotiris Vardoulakis and Devin Bowles.

Welcome to Rose Hosking, who has just started her PhD with Aparna.

Other news

Sotiris Vardoulakis has been invited to the Asthma Australia Research Advisory Committee.

Papers accepted/published:

Vardoulakis S., Sheel M., Lal A., Gray D., 2020. COVID-19 environmental transmission and preventive public health measures. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Public Health (in press)

Arbuthnott K., Hajat S., Heaviside C., Vardoulakis S., 2020. Years of life lost and mortality due to heat and cold in the three largest English cities.  Environment International (in press)

Zeka A., Tobias A., Leonardi G., Bianchi F., Lauriola P., Crabbe H., Vardoulakis S., Guo Y., Honda Y., Gasparrini A., Hashizume M., Vicedo A.M., Knudsen L.E., Sera F., Ashworth M., Scientific Committee INPHET. Responding to COVID-19 now and in the future requires strong epidemiologic evidence of its environmental and societal determining factors. Lancet Planetary Health (in press)

Lal A, Lucas R, Slatyer T. Water access as a required public health intervention to fight COVID-19 in the Pacific Islands. The Lancet Regional Health- Western Pacific. Accepted 7th July 2020. DOI:

Xinyi Liu, Lal A, Richardson A. Seasonality in testing and positive respiratory bacterial infections in the Australian Capital Territory, 1997-2007. Communicable Disease Intelligence (in press).

Miller K, Lucas RM, Davis E, Hart P, de Klerk N. Use of linked administrative and laboratory data to confirm that vitamin D status in pregnant women can be predicted from satellite estimates of ultraviolet radiation. Int J Epidemiol (accepted 20 July 2020)

Progress on research projects

Climate Change and Health Policy and 5-Year Action plan for the Marshall Islands – two stakeholder workshops organised and carried out in Majuro, RMI, on 27th and 29th July. (Sotiris Vardoulakis participated via Zoom)

Cross-college bushfire smoke children's book project – website launched: -science/bushfire-smoke-childrens-book

(RSPH involvement: Sotiris Vardoulakis, Erin Walsh, Ginny Sargent, and Liz Drummond)

PFAS Health Study – Analysis on the blood serum and survey data from the exposed communities is ongoing. The first wave of invitations to participate in the cross-sectional survey and blood serum study will be sent to the comparison communities in mid-August. The linked data from the perinatal data collections is being cleaned and preliminary analysis will begin soon. The linkage of national data is currently underway at the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

COVID-19 airborne transmission systematic review ongoing – title and abstract screening (Sotiris Vardoulakis and Daniela Espinoza). 

COVID-19 sewage monitoring programme is ongoing. We are currently doing metagenomics on a few samples and optimizing the protocol. We have also shared this protocol with the University of Tasmania who would like to do similar research.

Our Health in Our Hands (OHIOH) Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Stream

ELEVIDA MS fatigue study – recruitment closed and participants engaged in online program

ACT MS Cohort Study - advertised in MS Ltd Newsletter and recruitment is commencing

ACT MS Symposium - being coordinated with online program in October 2020

Correlates of fatigue in MS study – collaborating with researchers at Ausimmune study (University of Tasmania) and samples being analysed