Our newly published article examines how Elders in Rigolet, Nunatsiavut observe, experience, and respond to climate change impacts on health.
Congratulations to the first-author, Josh Ostapchuk! Josh did his fourth year thesis project with Drs. Cunsolo Willox, Edge, and Harper at the University of Guelph. He recently completed his MPH at Columbia University (NYC) in in May 2015, and accepted a full-time position with Deloitte in New York City as a Healthcare Strategy & Operations Consultant.
Joshua Ostapchuk, Sherilee Harper, Ashlee Cunsolo Willox, Victoria L. Edge, Rigolet Inuit Community Government. 2012 (published online in 2015). Exploring Elders’ and Seniors’ Perceptions of How Climate Change is Impacting Health and Well-being in Rigolet, Nunatsiavut. International Journal of Indigenous Health. 9(2): 6-24. Click here for open-access article.
Climate changes are rapidly intensifying and can lead to adverse global health impacts. Indigenous populations are especially vulnerable to climate change because of their dependence on the environment for cultural activities and subsistence. The voices of Inuit Elders and seniors encompass deep wisdom and history; as such, the goal of this research was to examine the perceived impacts of climate and environmental changes on physical, mental, and emotional health, as observed by Elders and seniors in the Inuit community of Rigolet, Nunatsiavut, Labrador, Canada. A mixed-methods approach was used to gather data capturing these local observations, as well as perceived impacts on community health. A community survey was administered in November 2009 (n = 75) and in-depth interviews were conducted with Elders and seniors from January to October 2010 (n = 22). Survey results indicated that Elders and seniors observing changes in weather patterns, water systems, and wildlife were more likely to perceive climate change impacts on health (p < 0.05). Emergent themes from the interviews included: recurring observations of climate change, including changes in temperature, ice, snow, and seasonal timing; impacts on physical health, including reduced physical activity levels and poorer nutrition; impacts on mental and emotional health, including feelings of isolation and depression; and an identified need for community-wide adaptation. This research emphasized the importance of understanding Elder-specific perspectives of climate-health relationships in the Canadian North to develop sustainable, culturally relevant adaptation strategies to mitigate health impacts related to climate change.