More than 80 doctors and other health officials from Nunavut, Nunavik and beyond met Iqaluit for the Challenges in Infectious Diseases conference the weekend of March 21st. Organizers hope to develop closer ties between the two regions. Dr. Gabriel Fortin, president of the organizing committee, says resources are limited so collaboration is essential. Workshops and discussions focused on illnesses such as tuberculosis, sexual transmitted infections and respiratory infections.
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A new report on air pollution from ships in the high Arctic warns of huge increases in air pollution from shipping. Although the report by the the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) is called “Air pollution from marine vessels in the U.S. High Arctic in 2025,” its findings are of concern to the entire Arctic region. The report estimates that because of Arctic ice melt, shipping could increase in the next 10 years anywhere from 150 percent to 600 percent. Alaska Dispatch News
The second Qanuippitaa Inuit health survey is underway in Nunavik. Researchers and representatives from the region’s health and social services met in Kuujjuaq Jan. 27 and Jan. 28 to kick start the 2016 edition of the survey, which will provide updated baseline information on the health of Nunavimmiut. The survey is a follow up to the 2004 Qanuippitaa (How are we?) health survey, the most extensive health survey ever done in Nunavik. Nunatsiaq Online
Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, (ANTHC), recently published reports of assessments done in various rural Alaska villages. These reports describe climate impacts, relying upon the observations, data and traditional ecological knowledge provided by local partners. Where available scientific data on environment, health and climate is included. The purpose is to describe changes that are occurring so as to help in the development of adaptive strategies that encourage community health and resilience. Communities include: Atqasuk, Nuiqsut, Wainwright, Levelock, Nondalton, Pilot Point, Selawick, Kiana, Noatak, Kivalina and Point Hope. To see the reports go to: http://www.anthc.org/chs/ces/climate/bbs/climateandhealthreports.cfm
Land-based camp programs in Nunavut got a major boost last month with a multi-million dollar grant to look at how much the program improves mental health among Inuit boys and men. The Movember Foundation’s Canadian Mental Health Initiative awarded $3 million in November to deliver and evaluate land-based programs from Yukon to Labrador. Nunatsiaq Online
A group of Cambridge Bay youth took part in a Makimautiksat land-based camp in the summer of 2011. New funding will help researchers look specifically at how those types of programs impact on the mental health of Inuit men and boys. (QHRC PHOTO)
Wilkes University Scientists Head North of the Arctic Circle to Study How Climate Change Affects PlantsMonday, December 29th, 2014
A Wilkes University scientist and several students will travel a long way this summer to find out if a changing climate is having an impact on plants. Thanks to a $1 million grant, a team from Wilkes will head 170 miles north of the Arctic Circle to spend June and July at the Toolik Lake Field Station. The $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation was awarded to a research team consisting of scientists from Wilkes, University of Texas at El Paso and the Ecosystems Center of the Marine Biology Laboratory at Massachusetts. Wilkes’ share of the three-year grant is $285,737. Ned Fetcher, scientist and coordinator of the Institute for Environmental Science and Sustainability at Wilkes University, is the principal investigator on a research team. The Times Leader
Research by a team at the University of Helsinki shows that an extract from wild cloudberries is effective in preventing the development of cancer cells in mice. It is possible that the cloudberries found growing wild in northern and eastern parts of Finland could be of use in the treatment of colon cancer. Research carried out on mice by a team at the University of Helsinki has found evidence that cloudberries can effectively prevent the formation of cancerous tumors and the growth of existing tumors. Alaska Dispatch News
A team of botanists is headed next week to a remote area in the Canadian territory of Nunavut to try to fill gaps in the knowledge about plant life in the far north. The month-long expedition to western Nunavut’s Coppermine River is part of a multiyear project to catalog the plants growing in the North American Arctic, from Alaska’s North Slope to the eastern stretches of Arctic Canada. Anchorage Daily News
If you know where to look in the Arctic, you’ll find strange hexagons dotting the tundra beneath the enduring summer sun. Strange, scattered honeycomb chambers. The open-top hexagonal units shelter 1 or 2 square meters’ worth of tundra plants, passively raising the temperature within their fiberglass walls by 1-3° Celcius. Every spring at diverse circumpolar sites, researchers deploy the six sided open-top chambers (OTCs) which act like small greenhouses. Their efforts are part of the International Tundra Experiment (ITEX), which catalogs data gathered by scientists from across the world in an effort to forecast how the Arctic tundra ecosystem will respond to global warming. Every country that lies within the Arctic Circle has participated in ITEX. Frontier Scientists
Regardless of where in the Arctic you go, the suicide statistics are grim. Greenland has the highest rate in the world. In Alaska, the rate of suicide is twice as high as the national average. Nunavut last year saw its highest number of suicides since the territory was created in 1999.
Explanations vary for why people in the Arctic – particularly Inuit men – chose to take their own lives. They include everything from weather (most suicides occur in the late spring and early summer) to uncertainty about cultural identity.
Stopping the trend has proven difficult, which leaves communities seeking various ways to approach the problem.
In some cases, the motivation for seeking to help others is found in a personal tragedy. In Greenland, the issue is currently being taken up by the national theatre in a performance based on the experiences of a woman whose past includes the suicides of four family members and the murder of a friend.
VIDEO: Introduction film to Greenland’s Nakuusa suicide-prevention programme (at end of story)
Similarly, in Nunavut, one filmmaker has been motivated to turn her experience grappling with the loss of a friend to suicide into a film she hopes will help others cope with their losses.
“We wanted to do something about this issue which is all too common in Nunavut,” Marie-Hélène Cousineau told the CBC, a Canadian broadcaster. “So we started to talk to people. We were a little bit fearful at first that people didn’t want to talk about the issue because it was too painful, but we soon realised that a lot of people want to talk about it and they have many things to say.”
Cousineau expects that ‘Sol’ will be completed by autumn, but she hopes that even before the film appears on the screen it can get people to start talking.
“We’re trying to give space to people. Let them express really their feelings, and I think that also creates a sense of taking life into your own hands. It’s empowering to make films.”
Talking, but to young people at risk of taking their own lives, is also at the heart of an Alaskan project that incorporates traditional activities in events dubbed ‘suicide-prevention camps’.
The outings, which last up to five days, use song, dance, traditional games and storytelling, outdoor activities like hunting and fishing, and, organisers stress, humour. Their philosophy is to prevent suicide not by focusing on the problems camp attendees deal with but by building up their confidence.
“Often, what’s taught isn’t obvious,” said Evon Peter, a camp organiser. “It’s not so much what we adults say, as how we are – how we interact, solve problems, and so on – that is the real lesson.”
The young people participating in suicide-prevention camps tend to have a history of substance abuse or have been physically abused. The camps, according to Peter, aren’t told what baggage participants have with them, but, by the end of their time together, they have often opened up and explained their history.
Greenland, which saw its suicide rate mushroom in the 1970s and ‘80s, has attempted a number of initiatives to reach out to young people, often by seeking to address their overall social welfare.
One of its biggest programmes to help improve the lives of children is a five-year collaboration between the Self-Rule authority and Unicef. It urges adults to keep an eye out for kids who appear to be having problems.
“Studies show that the one thing that kids that had a rough childhood, but managed to grow up and become well-adjusted adults, was that they had at least one adult in their life who paid attention to them and was close to them,” according to information for the Nakuusa programme.
Inspired by a similar Norwegian programme, Nakuusa, which means ‘let us be strong’ in Greenlandic, urges adults to consider how they can give a helping hand, even if that comes at the risk of over-reacting.
“Giving a child help and the affection it needs can prevent it from developing serious problems.” the programme’s guidelines state. “Normally, it doesn’t take much to make a difference in the life of a child that needs help.” — Arctic Journal