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Public health management at outdoor music festivals

Earl, Cameron Phillip (2006) Public health management at outdoor music festivals. .

Abstract

Background Information: Outdoor music festivals (OMFs) are complex events to organise with many exceeding the population of a small city. Minimising public health impacts at these events is important with improved event planning and management seen as the best method to achieve this. Key players in improving public health outcomes include the environmental health practitioners (EHPs) working within local government authorities (LGAs) that regulate OMFs and volunteer organisations with an investment in volunteer staff working at events. In order to have a positive impact there is a need for more evidence and to date there has been limited research undertaken in this area.

The research aim: The aim of this research program was to enhance event planning and management at OMFs and add to the body of knowledge on volunteers, crowd safety and quality event planning for OMFs. This aim was formulated by the following objectives.

1.To investigate the capacity of volunteers working at OMFs to successfully contribute to public health and emergency management;

2.To identify the key factors that can be used to improve public health management at OMFs; and

3.To identify priority concerns and influential factors that are most likely to have an impact on crowd behaviour and safety for patrons attending OMFs.

Methods: This research program has involved a series of five exploratory research studies exploring two main themes within public health management for OMFs, event planning capacity and volunteer capacity. Four studies used a cross-sectional design and survey methodology to collect self-report data from each cohort while the remaining study utilised case methods.

The study participants were recruited from Australian and European OMFs. For volunteer capacity, data have been collected from volunteers at two internationally recognised OMFs. One had formal training for their volunteers and the other did not. For planning capacity, data have been collected on consumer concerns regarding OMFs, priority factors that influence crowd behaviour and safety and leadership in event planning.

Results (volunteer capacity): The first studies assessed the public health and emergency management capacity of volunteers working at two OMFs. Volunteer training was provided at one event but not at the other. Comparatively, the participants from the OMF where training was provided reported noticeably better awareness of and involvement in public health and emergency management at that event. Additionally, this awareness was improved with experience volunteering at the study festivals. These studies highlighted the benefits of volunteer training and retention.

Results (event planning capacity): The next three studies focused on event planning capacity with the first being a case study on event planning leadership. The purpose of this study was to demonstrate that the event licensing programs managed by LGAs could improve health outcomes for OMFs. A European OMF, the Glastonbury Festival, was chosen for this study. After problems in 2000, it was highly likely that the event would never be held again unless public health and safety was improved. This study documents the progression from that 2000 event through to the 2004 event that was considered the safest event yet. The LGA EHPs working through the event licensing programs had engineered these changes.

The next study focused on consumer priority concerns associated with attending OMFs. A wide range of public health issues were identified as high concern including access to drinking water, toilets, safe food and personal protection issues such as females being grabbed or losing valuables. Safety in the mosh pit was a particular concern for almost half of the participants in the study. Also mosh pit safety was identified with other concerns such as females being grabbed, needing first aid, being struck by thrown items, crowd sizes, losing valuables and alcohol-related behaviour. Making safety in the mosh pit the most important public health issue for these study participants.

The final study focused on identifying the main influences on crowd behaviour and safety at OMFs, particularly mosh pits. This study follows on from the consumer study. The study participants were skilled event security guards, specialising in OMFs and considered the performers, the music and group mentality as the most common motivators for changes in mosh pit behaviour. They also considered that generally (1) crowd composition, (2) drugs and particularly alcohol, (3) the type of performance, (4) venue configuration, and (5) activities of security staff were highly influential on crowd behaviour and safety at OMFs.

Conclusion: Results from this research program have added to the body of evidence on public health management for OMFs. Findings support capacity building and retention for volunteer staff working at OMFs. Also this research has provided evidence on quality event planning, crowd behaviour and safety that can support EHPs working with OMFs. All of these studies have been published in peer-reviewed journals in order to communicate these findings to volunteer organisations and EHPs involved with OMFs.

Where to from here? There remains considerable opportunity for research on a variety of topics related to public health management for OMFs. Some specific areas where further work is recommended are:

othe development and evaluation of a pilot training program (web-based) for Australian volunteers working at OMFs (this training package is currently under development);

othe development of a national code of practice for the event management industry;

oresearch into festival patrons' risk perceptions and the impacts of those choices;

oevaluation of the planning and management approaches used by specific OMFs; and

oadditional detailed investigations of event characteristics such as crowd mood and its impacts on public health safety at OMFs.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 16235
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Parker, Elizabeth
Keywords: public health management, outdoor music festival, OMF, volunteer capacity, event planning capacity
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Schools > School of Public Health & Social Work
Department: Faculty of Health
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright Cameron Phillip Earl
Deposited On: 03 Dec 2008 13:59
Last Modified: 29 Oct 2011 05:45

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