Environmental Health Grant

Asthma Australia is dedicated to contributing to vital asthma research to realise our vision of a community free of asthma. That’s why, through the National Asthma Research Program, we invite problem solvers (researchers, innovators, designers) across Australia to apply for this environmental health grant which seeks to establish evidence around measures to prevent asthma deterioration, or protect asthma health, during periods of poor air quality. 

Asthma Australia believes every person in Australia should have access to clear air to breathe, to sustain health and livelihoods. However, we recognise that we can’t avoid all instances, or causes, of harmful air pollution. The 2019/2020 bushfires in Australia were unprecedented in scale. Modelling has estimated that smoke from these bushfires in NSW, Queensland, the ACT and Victoria was responsible for 417 deaths, 2,027 hospitalisations for respiratory problems and 1,305 emergency department presentations for asthma.2 Similarly, for most people, the emissions from wood heaters are an avoidable hazard. Wood heater smoke is the largest source of winter air pollution in areas including Sydney, Canberra and Tasmania,1 and 7% of Australian households use wood heaters as their main source of heating.2

The unprecedented nature of the 2019-20 bushfires and the significant community penetration of wood heater smoke emissions reinforce the need for Australian governments and other key stakeholders to be better prepared in providing comprehensive health advice and support, or to be equipped with solutions that can be deployed during air quality events.  Evidence is required to support such comprehensive and thoughtful efforts required to ensure Australians stay healthy and well during poor air quality periods. Particularly for people with conditions such as asthma, who are more vulnerable to the adverse health impacts of smoke emissions. 

Asthma Australia seeks to invest in work which addresses evidence gaps related to key policy recommendations in our two Bushfire Smoke and Asthma and Wood Heaters and Asthma policy and position statements.

Specifically, research proposals are invited against any of the following (click the headings for more information):


    Evaluation of the effectiveness of HEPA filters in preventing asthma deterioration, during periods of extreme particulate matter pollution from landscape fires or wood heaters

    • The evidence is well established around the effectiveness of HEPA filters to improve air quality when used according to recommendations and adapted to specific circumstances. But how, and how well, do they result in improvements in health outcomes? Do they improve asthma control, compared to people who don’t use them? Do they help prevent flare-ups and urgent healthcare use, quality of life? To what extent?
    • Please note: Whilst this focus area is needed to support the case to increase HEPA filter accessibility, especially for those who face difficulty accessing them, Asthma Australia would welcome applications that included other air pollution sources, such as noxious gases and airborne viruses

    Implementation and evaluation of an air quality monitoring and mitigation protocol for Australian schools and early childhood education to prevent respiratory condition exacerbation during landscape fire or wood heater related high pollution periods 

    • Education providers need current and localised air pollution information to take action to protect staff and students. They need to be able to identify and implement actions to reduce the risks associated with the hazardous pollution such as staying indoors, moving to safer areas, postponing outdoor activities or events, or deploying air cleaners in indoor spaces. In Australia, state based environmental agencies  monitor and publish air quality data, however, this information alone does not support decision makers in the institutions where our most vulnerable community members spend their time. Further, many communities lack local air quality information. What information is critical for schools to decide what to do to protect students? How does weather impact those decisions? How can we develop risk profiles for students? 
    • It is hoped that this initiative will include investigations into the range of options and roles of local air quality monitoring, as well as the response mechanisms conceivable in periods of increased air pollution 

    • This focus area is based on findings consistent across Asthma Australia’s and the Hunter Medical Research Institute’s bushfire smoke surveys which indicated that people who reported using their preventer before the bushfires were more likely to report symptoms and deterioration.
    • What would we like to know more about the relationship between exposure and health impact? What co-factors are associated with these relationships? Are people who also use medicines for other chronic diseases more or less likely to report symptoms during exposure periods?
    • What do we know about the mechanism of injury during PM 2.5 high pollution periods? What treatment options potentially mediate this mechanism?
    • What should I do if smoke is a trigger, I’m already using an inhaled preventer and I can’t avoid the smoke?

    • We understand that a number of locations in Australia have started trialling wood heater replacement schemes. We want to support these efforts and analysis of their implementation to ensure that such efforts are taken up more widely, even universally.
    • ‘Effectiveness’ may be considered expansively, from a user, economic and health outcome perspective
    • What are the conditions that enable the successful implementation of a woodheater replacement scheme? What data or evidence explains these conditions? What are the decision thresholds for consumers (eg based on discrete choice experiment methods)? What are the economic models that are going to be influential for policy makers (eg cost/benefit analysis, ? What is the value proposition and exchange for industry?

These priority areas have been identified from Asthma Australia’s key policy and position papers which are currently being updated. If you are planning to apply for this grant and would like to know more about our policies, and/or have a high-quality research project you think relates to these environmental health issues but doesn’t specifically answer the questions above, please reach out to research@asthma.org.au. 

Asthma Australia welcomes applications from a range of problem solvers (researchers, innovators, designers), describing the range of methods and approaches available to tackle these problems. Social innovator, co-designer, and design theory experts, as well as experts in other methods, are all invited to apply for this grant. We also welcome enquiries about lines of research which may not directly answer the above but still relate to our policy priorities. Please contact us in case any of the above apply to you. 


Grant Type Project Grant
Priority Area Environmental Health
Location Australia-wide
Total Amount Available $250,000 + GST
Project Duration Up to 3 years
Project Start Date Project expected to commence by 1 July 2023, unless discussed prior with Asthma Australia.  

First project payment is made on successful ethics application. 

Eligibility The research project must address one of the research areas, identified above.  

See also eligibility specified in the Guide for applicants. 

Applications Open Monday 27th February 2023
Applications Close Monday 24th April 2023

No late applications excepted

Relevant Documents Application Form

Consumer Review Form

Applicant Guide and Assessment Criteria

Announcement of Outcomes May 2023

The successful applicant will receive a grant agreement from Asthma Australia. This is expected to be returned to Asthma Australia within one month. The offer may lapse if both parties do not sign the grant agreement within this time.    

Any questions please contactresearch@asthma.org.au