Canada Research Chair in Climate Change and Health

Sherilee Harper was recently awarded a Canada Research Chair. Canada Research Chairs are awarded to “world-class scientists and scholars from diverse backgrounds who are working on new discoveries and innovations that help our environment, health, communities and economy thrive.” The Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport, recently announced the new Canada Research Chairs, which are funded by the Government of Canada.

As a Canada Research Chair in Climate Change and Health, Dr. Harper will conduct research focusing on “adaptation strategies to protect health in Inuit communities.”

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Canada Research Chair

Climate Change and Health

Metrics that Matter: Award Winning Poster by Alexandra Sawatzky

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In our series on award winning posters, we are pleased to share another poster created and presented by the talented Dr. Alex Sawatzky. In this poster, Alex presents research that she conducted in collaboration with Rigolet Inuit to examine Inuit-identified metrics for monitoring and responding to climate change in the Circumpolar North.

Alex presented this poster at the 2018 ArcticNet Annual Scientific Meeting, and won the poster prize - for the third year in a row!

Congratulations Alex!

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Award Winning Poster

2018 ArcticNet ASM

Award Winning Poster: David Borish

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This summer, we are profiling award winning posters presented at research conferences. At the 2016 ArcticNet Annual Scientific Meeting, David Borish won the poster presentation competition, for his work on using participatory film to examine the relationships between caribou and Inuit in Labrador.

Award Winning Poster

2016 ArcticNet ASM

Who is environmental health research serving?

About a year ago, and shortly after ITK’s Inuit Research Strategy was released, Jen Jones led the publication of an article that examined environmental health research in the Circumpolar North.

Addressing factors leading to health disparities in the Circumpolar North require approaches that consider and address the social determinants of health including on-going colonization. Today, colonization and related policies and processes, continue to manifest in the marginalization of Indigenous knowledge, particularly its use in research; however, Indigenous populations have moved from being research subjects to leaders and consumers of environmental health research. Given the tensions that exist between how health research is conducted, how the results are mobilized, and who has control and access to the results, we examined how peer-reviewed environment-related Indigenous health research in the Circumpolar North is serving the needs of Indigenous communities, governments, and organizations. Read the full article here.

Citation: Jones, J., Cunsolo, A., & Harper, S. L. (2018). Who is research serving? A systematic realist review of circumpolar environment-related Indigenous health literature. PloS one13(5), e0196090.

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Free open-access article

Jones, Cunsolo, and Harper 2018

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CBC Radio Interview

Jen spoke with CBC host Leonard Linklater about the paper


Award Winning Poster: Alexandra Sawatzky's Literature Review

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As part of our series on award winning poster presentations, it is pleasure to share a poster presented by Alex. At the 2017 ArcticNet Annual Scientific Meeting, Dr. Alex Sawatzky presented the results of her literature review about integrated environment and health surveillance in the Circumpolar North. Her poster won a poster prize at the conference, and this work has been published since then (click here to access the free article).

Congratulations Alex!

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Award Winning Poster

2017 ArcticNet ASM

National Science Assessment: Health of Canadians in a Changing Climate 2021

About the Assessment Report

The World Health Organization has identified climate change as the greatest threat to global health and to health systems in the 21st Century. Climate change risks to the health of Canadians are increasing and many impacts are already being observed.  Using the latest evidence, and engaging experts from across the country, the Government of Canada is conducting a climate change and health assessment, which is expected to be released in the summer of 2021. The report, Health of Canadians in a Changing Climate: Advancing our Knowledge for Action, will provide an assessment of the risks of climate change to the health of Canadians and the health care system. It will also support actions by health decision makers at local, provincial/ territorial and national levels, as well as those who work in public health, health care, emergency management, research and community organizations. 

Sherilee Harper is a Lead Author working on the Food Security and Food Safety Chapter in this report. Additionally, team members Amreen Babujee and Katharine Neale have been providing research support on this Chapter.

Assessment Timelines

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Learn more about the Assessment:

Visit the website to learn more https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/environment/impacts-adaptation/21189

Crystal Presents at the Canadian Nutrition Society Conference

Crystal Gong recently returned from the Canadian Nutrition Society conference in Niagara Falls.

Crystal presented her systematic scoping review of the climate change and nutrition literature in the North. Her review aimed to answer the question: how does food security and nutrition research enhance our understanding of climate change impacts and adaptation?

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Crystal Noted,

“It was an amazing experience having the opportunity to connect with students studying diverse research topics across the nutritional sciences and listening to talks from the pioneers of maternal nutrition research. Leaving the national meeting for the Canadian Nutrition Society held at the Sheraton in Niagara Falls I felt bright-eyed and hopeful for the future of nutrition.”

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How can technology support community-led monitoring in a changing climate? Read our new article to find out!

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We are excited to share our recent publication on the need for community-led, integrated and innovative monitoring programmes when responding to the health impacts of climate change in the Circumpolar North.

Award Winning Poster: Kate Bishop-Williams

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As a part of our Award Winning Poster series, we are pleased to share Kate Bishop-Williams’ poster from 2014. Winning the poster prize at the 2014 ArcticNet Annual Scientific Meeting, Kate shared her research on the seasonal prevalence of acute gastrointestinal illness in Rigolet, Nunatsiavut. This work was conducted in partnership with the Rigolet Inuit Community Government.

Congratulations Kate!

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Award Winning Poster

2014 ArcticNet ASM

How does climate change impact health in rural and remote regions in Canada?

It's our pleasure to share our new publication, which provides a synthesis of the forthcoming first order draft of the Canadian Government’s National Assessment on Climate Change ‘Rural and Remote’ chapter, highlighting key health concerns from the literature associated with climate change in rural and remote regions, as well as existing and future adaptation strategies.

Award Winning Poster about Inuit Health by Alexandra Sawatzky

Contributing to our series on award winning poster presentations, this beautifully designed poster was presented by Dr. Alex Sawatzky at the 2016 Labrador Research Forum and the 2016 ArcticNet Annual Scientific Meeting. At both of these conferences, Alex won awards in the poster competition.

Through this poster, Alex presents work that she conducted in collaboration with Nunatsiavut Inuit to identify pathways for achieving and sustaining good wellbeing.

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Award Winning Poster

2016 Labrador Research Forum & 2016 ArcticNet ASM

New Publication! Using Whiteboard Videos for Health Promotion

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Citation

Saini, M., Roche, S., Papadopoulos, A., Markwick, N., Shiwak, I., Flowers, C., Wood, M., Edge, V., Ford, J., Rigolet Inuit Community Government, Nunatsiavut Government, IHACC Research Team, Wright, C., Harper, S. (2019). Promoting Inuit health through a participatory whiteboard video. Can J Public Health. doi: 10.17269/s41997-019-00189-1

Abstract

Setting: The Inuit community of Rigolet experiences greater rates of self-reported acute gastrointestinal illness (AGI) compared to southern Canada.

Intervention: A whiteboard video tool was collaboratively developed by Rigolet youth, community members, the research team and key regional stakeholders to share public health recommendations for reducing the risk of AGI. The video debuted in Rigolet at a community event in August 2016 and was later provided online for community members and local and regional health departments. Interviews and focus group discussions were used to evaluate the ability of the video to communicate public health information to community members in Rigolet.

Outcomes: Community and government viewers reported that the whiteboard video was novel and engaging. Evaluation participants believed the video was suitable for promoting Inuit health because of the use of locally relevant visuals and narrative, which reflect Inuit art and storytelling traditions. Furthermore, participants indicated that the video co-development process was critical to ensuring community relevance of the video. Short-term outcome results suggest the video can reinforce health knowledge and potentially encourage behavioural change.

Implications: The results suggest this whiteboard video was an effective tool to share information and could increase intention to change behaviours to reduce the risk of AGI in Rigolet. While tools like the whiteboard video are gaining popularity, the participatory approach was used to develop the video, and its use in an Inuit context illustrates its innovation and novelty. This tool may be a useful health promotion tool among Indigenous communities in Canada.

Award Winning Poster: Manpreet Saini

As a part of our “Award Winning Poster” series, this post celebrates Manpreet's presentation success at the ArcticNet Annual Scientific Meeting in 2015. At this meeting, Manpreet won one of the poster prizes for her work in collaboration with the Rigolet Inuit Community Government and the Nunatsiavut Government that evaluated the collaborative development of a whiteboard video for health promotion.

Congratulations Manpreet!

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Award Winning Poster

ArcticNet Annual Scientific Meeting 2015

Award Winning Poster: Jacqueline Middleton

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Congratulations to Jacqueline Middleton for winning the poster prize at the Labrador Research Forum in Happy Valley - Goose Bay in May 2019!

In Jacquie’s poster, she explores the role of community-identified metrics and modifiers that matter in a changing climate.

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Award Winning Poster

Labrador Research Forum 2019

National Knowledge Translation Award Winner!

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Congratulations!

Steven Lam wins a national knowledge translation award!

Congratulations to Steven Lam for receiving a National Collaborating Centres for Public Health’s Knowledge Translation Award at the Public Health 2019 conference in Ottawa this week!

Steven receives this award for his PhD research project, which synthesizes experiences from scholarly evaluations and draws synergies between evaluation and knowledge translation to inform public health programs.

As outlined on the Public Health 2019 website, “His work in knowledge translation is motivated by a personal interest in making research more readily available, easier to understand, more interesting, and thus more likely to be used. "What is the point of doing applied research if it doesn't get applied," he quips. He believes both knowledge translation and program evaluation are important parts of public health programming, and finds the synergies between the two exciting. For Steven, knowledge translation has evolved into an approach that engages knowledge users in the process.”

"What is the point of doing applied research if it doesn't get applied?"

                                                     - Steven Lam, Award Winner

Steven received this award based on his project’s relevance to knowledge translation in public health; creativity/innovation shown in the project; scholarliness of the project; potential impact of the project; and quality and degree of support of academic supervisor.

Congratulations Steven!

How does climate change impact Inuit trail use? Check out this new publication to find out!

In an article published in Nature Climate Change, we use 30 years of instrumental data in combination with Inuit knowledge to examine how access to trails could be impacted via climate change. We find that climate impacts on trail access is modified by trail user’s risk tolerance and skill level.

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Inuit trail use in a changing climate

New article published in Nature Climate Change

Abstract:

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Arctic climate change has the potential to affect access to semi-permanent trails on land, water and sea ice, which are the main forms of transport for communities in many circumpolar regions. Focusing on Inuit Nunangat (the Inuit homeland in northern Canada), trail access models were developed drawing upon a participatory process that connects Indigenous knowledge and science. We identified general thresholds for weather and sea ice variables that define boundaries that determine trail access, then applied these thresholds to instrumental data on weather and sea ice conditions to model daily trail accessibility from 1985 to 2016 for 16 communities. We find that overall trail access has been minimally affected by >2 °C warming in the past three decades, increasing by 1.38–1.96 days, differing by trail type. Across models, the knowledge, equipment and risk tolerance of trail users were substantially more influential in determining trail access than changing climatic conditions.

Citation:

Ford, J.D., Clark, D., Pearce, T., Berrang-Ford, L., Copland, L.,. Dawson, J., New, M., Harper, S.L. (2019) Changing access to ice, land and water in Arctic communities. Nature Climate Change. 9: 335–339. Click here to access the article.

Reflections on the 2018 ACUNS Conference in Edmonton

Written by Isaac Bell, Undergraduate Thesis Student

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What’s an Arctic research conference without some snow? The Association of Canadian Universities for Northern Studies (ACUNS) Student Conference, held from November 1-3 at the University of Alberta, perfectly coincided with a generous, multi-day serving of snow, setting the tone for three days of engaging discussions on Northern research.

Isaac Presents his Research

Isaac Presents his Research

Personally, I had the exciting opportunity to present my first poster at an academic conference, entitled ‘Indigenous knowledge integration and community-based research practices among Northern researchers’. The poster session was a very enjoyable experience, and my project will definitely benefit from the conversations I had with researchers hailing from a wide variety of disciplines.

Dr. Martin Raillard, the Chief Scientist of Polar Knowledge Canada (POLAR), delivered the opening day’s keynote lecture. He spoke passionately about Canada’s leadership position in Arctic research, and the capacity for POLAR to guide other nations towards Indigenous-identified research gaps in Arctic contexts. Among other things, he emphasized the importance of relationships; specifically, that meaningful relationships are what matter the most when it comes to research in the North.

On the topic of relationships, ACUNS 2018 was also an opportunity for several members of the Harper Lab, be they based out of Edmonton, Guelph or elsewhere, to reconnect in a fairly informal setting. David Borish, fresh off the plane from the North American Caribou Workshop in Ottawa, gave an incredible presentation on exploring Inuit-caribou relationships through community-led audio-visual methods. Spoiler alert: David won the award of top oral presentation among PhD students! Outside of the conference, there were several fun activities planned for the Harper Lab, including attending an Oilers game (they won 4-0!), splitting forces to compete in an escape room, and going out for a nice meal.

Back at the conference, Mr. Duane Ningaqsiq Smith, the Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer of Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, delivered a powerful keynote lecture wherein he referenced some personal experiences with research in the Inuvialuit region. He offered a simple but wise recommendation to do your research (about the region and its people) before you head North to do your ‘actual’ research. Aside from the keynote speakers, the program was packed with research presentations covering an immensely broad range of topics, from traditional Inuit sewing and beading practices, to changes in lichen biomass.

Despite the breadth of content covered in the conference’s three days, there were indeed some unifying themes. Notably, an emphasis on active, mutual learning with Northern community members and/or local representatives appeared to be emerging across essentially all domains of Northern research. Even projects that were seemingly unrelated to humans often took place on the territories of Indigenous communities and served to benefit from the Indigenous knowledge of that region, but more importantly, had a duty to ensure constant consent and approval from the local populations. Several presenters also mentioned a shift towards Indigenous-led research and ownership of results as a method of enhancing the local relevance of research practices. The concept of the Arctic being large in geography but small in ‘feel’ was also an underlying thread throughout the conference’s presentations and coffee break discussions. Many individuals have lived or worked in the same communities and thus knew lots of the same people!

Wrapping up the conference, the Guelph-born explorer extraordinaire James Raffan delivered the keynote lecture at Saturday night’s closing gala. He spoke of his latest adventure: Travelling around the Arctic Circle at 66.6 degrees latitude to engage with locals and learn how they’re being affected by climate change. Despite his own decision to leave the world of academia, James offered high praise for the passion and commitment to meaningful research on display at ACUNS 2018.

Overall, this conference was a wonderful opportunity to learn from the future generation of Arctic researchers, and allowed many members of the Harper Lab to reconnect at the University of Alberta!

How can integrated health & environmental monitoring support climate change adaptation? Check out our new publication to find out!

Congratulations to Alexandra Sawatzy on her recent publication. Alex reviewed integrated surveillance used for responding to climate and environmental change impacts on human health in the Circumpolar North. The article can be accessed, for free, at: https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/15/12/2706

Key Messages:

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Key Message 1:

The wide range and diversity of integrated surveillance systems described in the literature can help guide and target evidence-based public health responses in support of climate change adaptation in the North.

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Key Message 2:

2: Findings offer insight into how these systems can be designed to be more responsive to public health concerns within rapidly shifting Northern environments.

What are key components of integrated surveillance?

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Recommendations & Next Steps:

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Article citation:

Sawatzky, A., Cunsolo, A., Jones-Bitton, A., Middleton, J., Harper, S.L. (2018). Responding to Climate and Environmental Change Impacts on Human Health via Integrated Surveillance in the Circumpolar North: A Systematic Realist Review. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health.15(12), 2706. Click here to access the article (free open-access)

Abstract:

Environments are shifting rapidly in the Circumpolar Arctic and Subarctic regions as a result of climate change and other external stressors, and this has a substantial impact on the health of northern populations. Thus, there is a need for integrated surveillance systems designed to monitor the impacts of climate change on human health outcomes as part of broader adaptation strategies in these regions. This review aimed to identify, describe, and synthesize literature on integrated surveillance systems in Circumpolar Arctic and Subarctic regions, that are used for research or practice. Following a systematic realist review approach, relevant articles were identified using search strings developed for MEDLINE® and Web of Science™ databases, and screened by two independent reviewers. Articles that met the inclusion criteria were retained for descriptive quantitative analysis, as well as thematic qualitative analysis, using a realist lens. Of the 3431 articles retrieved in the database searches, 85 met the inclusion criteria and were analyzed. Thematic analysis identified components of integrated surveillance systems that were categorized into three main groups: structural, processual, and relational components. These components were linked to surveillance attributes and activities that supported the operations and management of integrated surveillance. This review advances understandings of the distinct contributions of integrated surveillance systems and data to discerning the nature of changes in climate and environmental conditions that affect population health outcomes and determinants in the Circumpolar North. Findings from this review can be used to inform the planning, design, and evaluation of integrated surveillance systems that support evidence-based public health research and practice in the context of increasing climate change and the need for adaptation.

The article can be accessed, for free, at: https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/15/12/2706