In the 1940s and 1950s, medical ships cruised the waters of southwest Alaska, trying to end an epidemic of tuberculosis that infected as many of 90 percent of the region’s population. Doctors now face shortages of tuberculosis detection and treatment medicines even as the aftershocks of that 70-year-old epidemic infect Alaskans anew. “What we’re having to do due to the national shortage is to ask people to put on hold some of the routine screening of at-risk people,” said Dr. Michael Cooper, Alaska’s deputy state epidemiologist. Alaska has the highest tuberculosis rates in the country, partly due to the mid-20th century epidemic, Cooper explained. Anchorage Daily News
The United States Executive Office of the President’s National Science and Technology Council has released a five-year Arctic Research Plan that outlines key areas of study the Federal government will undertake to better understand and predict environmental changes in the Arctic. The Plan was developed by a team of experts representing 14 federal agencies, based on input from collaborators including the Alaska Governor’s Office, indigenous Arctic communities, local organizations, and universities. Seven research areas are highlighted in the Plan as both important to the development of national policies and well-poised to benefit from interagency collaboration, including among them: regional climate models, human health studies, and adaptation tools for communities. The Report
The Polar Research Board, of the National Research Council (part of National Academy of Sciences) announced a study activity designed to provide guidance on future research questions in the Arctic over the next 10-20 years, identifying the key scientific questions that are emerging in different realms of Arctic science and exploring both disciplinary realms (e.g., marine, terrestrial, atmosphere, cryosphere, social sciences, and health) and cross cutting realms (e.g., integrated systems science and sustainability science). Based on the emerging research questions, the study will also help identify research infrastructure needs (e.g., observation networks, computing and data management, ship requirements, shore facilities, etc.) and collaboration opportunities. Attention will be given to assessing needs where there may be a mismatch between rates of change and the pace of scientific research. Although it is understood that there is no one answer, the committee is asked to explore how agency decision makers might achieve balance in their research portfolios and associated investments (e.g., what are some of the challenges of trying to do both problem-driven research and curiosity-driven research?). The goal is to guide future directions in U.S. Arctic research so that research is targeted on critical scientific and societal questions and conducted as effectively as possible.
The study will include a community workshop to be held in Alaska in late spring of 2013, and the Committee’s report is expected to be released by spring 2014. Further information about the project, including the study scope and the provisional committee slate, and public comments, can be submitted here.
The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium have launched their second survey in an effort to assess Alaskans’ wants, needs and vision for the future of health and health care in Alaska. The initial survey ran between Sept. 17 and Oct. 22, 2012. More than 1,500 Alaskans responded to the survey, listing such health priorities as alcohol use and abuse; the cost of health care; and diet, exercise and obesity as their principal health concerns.
The second survey is designed to shorten the current list of 71 health indicators to the top 25 Alaskans feel are most important. The Healthy Alaskans 2020 initiative will track the state’s progress in meeting these top health priorities between now and 2020. Anchorage Daily News
A new study conducted by the Alaska Division of Public Health shows a decline in violent deaths in Alaska during the past five years, an indication that some of Alaska’s most persistent and serious problems could be improving. The data comes from the Alaska Violent Death Reporting System (AKVDRS), a federally funded program established in 2004. Alaska is one of 18 states receiving federal funding for the program, which has collected data for two five-year periods, 2004-2008 and 2007-2011. Alaska DispatchAlaska Violent Death Reporting System 2003 – 2008
In We Breathe Again, a movie in production about Alaska Native suicide-prevention work, a man talks about his suicide attempt. “I wanted to hunt. I wanted to put food aside, but I couldn’t do it without a vehicle and gas money.” He began drinking and finally turned a gun on himself. The last thing he remembers saying to his family before the gun went off was, “By god, I love you all.” The people in the film were courageous, willing to talk about moments of anguish as well as triumph, so that others can learn from their experiences, says director and cinematographer Marsh Chamberlain. “Listening to them has been such a privilege. We Breathe Again is about serious issues, but it’s also uplifting-a healing journey. Whatever our characters have been through, they’re all living healthy lives now, so that hasn’t been hard to do.” Indian Country Today
Nunavut came up trumps at the first-annual Arctic Inspiration Prize at the ArcticNet Annual Scientific Meeting in Vancouver, B.C. Dec. 13. The prize is awarded to four research projects that “address pressing issues facing Canada’s Arctic and its Peoples.” All four get a selected chunk of a $1-million prize given by the S. and A. Inspiration Foundation.
The winning Nunavut projects include:
- The Arctic Food Network — $360,000: The Arctic Food Network won its money by creating a scheme to build regional food cabins along a network of “food highways” or snowmobile trails across the territory.
- The Nunavut Literacy Council — $300,000: The Nunavut Literacy Council won its $300,000 with its three-year research project about embedding literacy skills into traditional programs.
- Inuit elders writing a book on Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit — $240,000: Ten elders from across Nunavut, along with a subset of many other elders, are writing a book about traditional knowledge and culture, What Inuit Have Always Known to be True.
For every 1,000 American Indian and Alaska Native babies born in U.S. cities, as many as 15 die before their first birthday. To raise awareness and share valuable health and prevention messages about this problem, the Urban Indian Health Institute (UIHI) has launched Native Generations, a campaign addressing the high rates of infant mortality among American Indians and Alaska Natives. The campaign was made possible by funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health. Native American Times
The Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East (RAIPON), Russia’s largest indigenous rights group and one of six indigenous Permanent Participants on the world’s Arctic Council, is in serious danger of being permanently dissolved. The non-governmental organization has received an official six-month “activities suspension order” from Russia’s Ministry of Justice restricting the group from protesting or gathering. The federal Ministry of Justice accused the organization of noncompliance with federal law.
Rodion Sulyandziga, RAIPON’s first vice president, told the French news agency AFP, “This is a political decision. They want to remove us as a barrier and active participant in international law.”
RAIPON represents an estimated 30,000 indigenous people and 41 member groups throughout Russia and, in some cases, is the only mouthpiece for indigenous Russians.
Because of the suspension, RAIPON has stopped all international projects, but the association isn’t going to give up without a fight. RAIPON plans to appeal the ministry’s decision. However, if the appeal is unsuccessful, RAIPON will be ordered to completely shut down operations within six months, leaving the indigenous people of Russia’s Arctic without a voice on the Arctic Council. Alaska Dispatch
The Alaska Native Epidemiology Center and the Alaska Division of Public Health are hosting a U.S. Census and American Factfinder Workshop. This is a two-day workshop featuring beginner and intermediate/advanced training sessions for the American FactFinder. Mark your calendars and register early for this event! Session topics will include American Factfinder basics, Margin of Error, PUMS files, Alaskan exercises, and more. Space is limited and registration is required. Conference will be held in Anchorage, AK. Specific location details will be available upon completed registration.
Completed registration forms are due before 5:00 pm on November 1, 2012. Applications may be submitted via email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or by fax at: (907) 729-4569.