An app developed by the University of Tasmania experienced a five-fold increase in users during the bushfires.
The Air-Rater app was developed by the Menzies Institute for Medical Research and helps people with asthma, hay fever and other lung conditions to better manage their symptoms.
Previously only funded to operated in Tasmania, the ACT and the Northern Territory, AirRater was made available to all areas of Australia once the severity of the bushfires was made apparent.
After that decision the app was downloaded more than 40,000 times.
A recent paper surveyed users of the app, who reported it helped them make informed decisions about their daily activities during the bushfires.
Lead author on the paper, Sharon Campbell, said that AirRater users around Australia were surveyed after the bushfires to find out how they used the app.
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Responses were received from 1732 people, and they reported the app was highly useful and supported informed decision-making regarding daily activities.
“Smoke from the bushfires affected 80 per cent of the Australian population. We are very pleased that AirRater helped people to plan their outdoor activities, change their location to areas less affected by smoke, or stay inside when conditions were poor,” Ms Campbell said.
By providing timely and location-specific air quality information, the app helped users to reduce their exposure to smoke and meant those people most vulnerable to the health impacts had support and information to stay well.
Menzies Institute director Alison Venn, said these findings highlighted the way research could have direct and positive impacts on people’s lives.
“The last bushfire season was the most severe on record in Australia. The success of the AirRater app in providing information on air quality in an innovative and easy-to-use way shows how we can help protect the health of our community during times of emergency,” Professor Venn said.