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Though Still High, Alaska’s Homicide, Suicide Rates Drop a Bit

January 24th, 2013 by cgarrett

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

New Film Highlights Alaska Native Suicide Prevention

January 24th, 2013 by cgarrett
A feature length documentary film about Alaska Native journeys through heartbreak and hope. In a landscape as dramatic as its stories, Alaska Native people face staggering suicide rates, yet remain determined to heal & thrive!

A feature length documentary film about Alaska Native journeys through heartbreak and hope. In a landscape as dramatic as its stories, Alaska Native people face staggering suicide rates, yet remain determined to heal & thrive!

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 research projects clean up at first-ever Arctic Inspiration Prize

December 14th, 2012 by cgarrett

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.


UIHI Launches Native Generations Campaign to Protect Native Babies

December 12th, 2012 by cgarrett

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

Indigenous Russians May Lose Arctic Council Association

November 16th, 2012 by cgarrett

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

U.S. Census and American FactFinder Workshop

October 29th, 2012 by cgarrett

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, or by fax at: (907) 729-4569.

Native Voices IPad App

October 29th, 2012 by cgarrett

The Native Voices site by NLM now has an iPad app. The app presents video interviews with tribal elders, healers and other prominent people who practice traditional medicine, Western medicine or a combination of both. From their unique experiences and perspectives, they weave a tapestry of stories of the vibrant and diverse cultures and medicine ways of Alaska Natives, Native Americans and Native Hawaiians. Other video clips provide an exhibition overview and highlights of the 4,400-mile journey of the totem pole specially created for the exhibition. The Native Voices app works on all iPads with iOS4.2 and higher. To download the free app, go to the Apple iTunes store and type in “NLM Native Voices.”

LiverTox: NIH launches free database of drugs associated with liver injury

October 29th, 2012 by cgarrett


A free source of evidence-based information for health care professionals and for researchers studying liver injury associated with prescription and over-the-counter drugs, herbals, and dietary supplements is now available from the National Institutes of Health. Researchers and health care professionals can use the LiverTox database to identify basic and clinical research questions to be answered and to chart optimal ways to diagnose and control drug-induced liver injury.

Drug-induced liver injury is the leading cause of acute liver failure in the United States, accounting for at least half of cases. It occurs at all ages, in men and women, and in all races and ethnic groups. Drug-induced liver disease is more likely to occur among older adults because they tend to take more medications than younger people. Some drugs directly damage the liver, while others cause damage indirectly or by an allergic reaction. The most important element to managing drug-induced liver injury is to identify the drug that’s causing the problem and appropriate steps to eliminate or reduce damage to the liver.  The site:

An Arctic Mercury Meltdown

October 19th, 2012 by cgarrett

At high levels, mercury is a toxin that can impair neurological development in children and affect the adult nervous system.Daniel Jacob, Vasco McCoy Family professor of atmospheric chemistry and environmental engineering, has been studying the movement of atmospheric mercury for the last decade or so, and has been particularly interested in how and why it shows up at elevated levels in the Arctic—in both the atmosphere and the food cycle. Conventional wisdom, he says, was that emissions from coal combustion and mining in North America, Europe, and—increasingly—Asia were drifting over the Arctic and depositing the mercury via precipitation.

A few years ago, he began testing that theory using a complex 3-D computer model called the Geos-CHEM, which measures atmospheric transportation. “What I was expecting was to find that atmospheric deposition was the dominant source of mercury to the Arctic,” says Jacob. With that finding, he could then examine how that deposition was affected by changes in global emissions patterns—rising levels in Asia, falling levels in the United States and Europe—and by the melting of the Arctic sea ice, which receives and re-emits the mercury into the atmosphere, keeping it from further dissemination in the water. “But, as often occurs in science,” Jacob says, “serendipity took over.”

When he and research teams from the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Harvard School of Public Health started analyzing their data, they found something the emissions theory could not explain: mercury levels in the Arctic peaked in the summer, when the transportation of emissions pollution was low, but fell off during the winter, despite a concurrent annual emissions-pollution peak.

The hidden element? Their study, published in a recent issue of the journal Nature Geoscience, found that the major Arctic mercury source wasn’t the atmosphere, but the Arctic Ocean itself.

That body of water, Jacob says, receives 10 percent of all global river discharge, thanks in large part to three massive Siberian rivers: the Lena, the Yenisei, and the Ob. Jacob’s team theorizes that the rivers carry mercury to the Arctic Ocean from myriad sources, including Siberian mines and the erosion of other polluted land masses—and because the ocean is relatively shallow, the mercury-laden river waters have a greater influence on its smaller volume of water.

Climate change is another culprit. An unfrozen Arctic Ocean lashing at the coast and eroding mercury-rich land masses means more of the element entering the water, especially in summer. The effect of rising temperatures in Siberia eventually affects the Arctic, as well: “As the permafrost thaws, mercury in the soil gets released into the river system,” Jacob explains. “From a policy standpoint,” he adds, “the message is that the mercury accumulation is not necessarily a recent phenomenon, and we can’t really blame increasing pollution from China—which is what people wanted to do. It seems to be really old mercury, and it’s coming from really old human activity”—such as mining—“that is a century old, maybe older.” Dan Morrell, Harvard Magazine

Climate change could cause some fish species to shrink by nearly 25%

October 3rd, 2012 by cgarrett

A new study that modeled the impact of climate change on more than 600 fish species says that most of those species could shrink by between 14 and 24 percent by the year 2050. Additionally, as the concentration of oxygen in the Earth’s waters decreases, some species may move away from equatorial waters toward the Arctic. The study, conducted by researchers from the University of British Columbia, Princeton University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has broad implications — not only for the Earth’s ecosystems, but for the seafood industry as well as sport fishermen. If that doesn’t get you excited, take this theoretical figure: in 2011, Alaska brought home 5.4 billion pounds of seafood worth $1.9 billion, by far the most among U.S. states. If that catch were reduced by 25 percent, it would mean a loss of 1.35 billion pounds and $475 million from state fisheries. Alaska Dispatch