Changing Arctic needs new approach to health and social services: report

“Knowing how to respond is difficult”


Rapidly changing health conditions in the Arctic, due in part to climate change and globalization, call for a dramatically new approach to research and delivery of services to improve the health and wellness in Arctic communities, says a report released by the Dickey Center for International Understanding and the UArctic Institute for Applied Circumpolar Policy.

Communities from Canada’s North to the Russian Arctic face a variety of health challenges, such as the movement north of insect and water borne diseases as temperatures rise, the threat of environmental contaminants, an increase in heart disease and obesity with a shift away from traditional foods and the difficulty of providing health services to remote areas, a May 31 news release on the report said.

Twenty-seven health experts met last year at United States’ Dartmouth University to tackle the critical health issues facing Arctic communities and to recommend ways of combating these problems. They concluded that a focus on wellness and the resilience of northern communities is a more productive path to solutions than many traditional health care approaches.

“The climate and ecosystems of the Arctic are changing rapidly and we can see real impacts on the health of people and their communities. Knowing how to respond is difficult,” said Ross Virginia, director of the Institute of Arctic Studies at the Dickey Center.

The report’s recommendations say health research should create tangible benefits for communities as well as individuals, bring local and traditional knowledge into health practices, actively involve the community in making health research priorities, and focus more on holistic practices that protect and sustain people rather than solely on health problems.

The report will be distributed by the University of the Arctic during a meeting of Arctic parliamentarians in Nuuk in June.

You can download the report here.

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