In response to student demand and in an effort to bring attention to the High North’s unique challenges and opportunities, McMaster University’s Global Health Office has developed The Arctic: A Global Health Perspective. The webinar series was launched on February 1, 2021 with special addresses from H.E. Patrick Parisot, Canada’s Ambassador to Norway, and H.E. Jon Elvedal Fredriksen, Norway’s Ambassador to Canada. Highlighting the growing international interest in the region, participants tuned in from over 15 countries including Russia, Iceland, South Africa, Sudan, and China. This series offers the opportunity to reflect on the transdisciplinary nature of global health and gain a new understanding of the Far North.
The first webinar in the series began with addresses from the Canadian and Norwegian Ambassadors. Together, they set the stage by discussing their insights on pressing Arctic global health issues such as combatting Covid-19, fighting climate change, and promoting human rights. Together, these addresses highlighted the close collaboration and long-standing instinctive relationships between the Far North communities and challenged us to think about creative solutions to urgent issues. Additionally, with the COVID-19 pandemic raising significant concerns across the world, the speakers noted that the Arctic region faces unique challenges particularly in rural and remote communities. This not only represents a threat to human health, but creates challenges for social, economic, and cultural systems.
Participants also heard from Dr. Cecile Daae, who provided us with perspectives and reflections from the Northern Norway Regional Health Authority (Norwegian: Helse Nord). Helse Nord is the most northern of four regional health authorities in Norway Dr Daae presented the audience with an overview of the complexities of the Arctic region that make the delivery of health services a challenge and outlined opportunities for regional and international collaboration through the All Hazards Approach. Daae states “we have to build endurance and resilience through an all hazards approach, which means our health services need to have an integrated approach to planning.”
In the second webinar, Dr. Chris Furgal discussed the environmental determinants of human health in the Arctic and asked the attendees to reflect on the uniqueness of distinct regions of the world. He amplified the health disparities between the circumpolar North and other regions, and that the Arctic remains an underrepresented area in global health research. With a focus on the Canadian Arctic, he discussed its rapid social and environmental change, and the impact of climate change on people and animals. He emphasized the capacity to adapt through community driven solutions and approaches for identifying and responding to health issues in communities, which take into account traditional knowledge and local resources.
It is evident that the Arctic series will be an important platform for sharing knowledge and offer attendees a transdisciplinary look at key global health challenges and opportunities in the High North. Over the coming weeks, the series will feature academics and specialists that will continue to cover topics including Arctic governance, climate change, Covid-19, food security, migration, Indigenous rights and more.
“This series offers us a unique opportunity to explore an underrepresented area in global health research and to gain an understanding of the health, environment, and governance of the Arctic region,” explains Andrea Baumann, Associate Vice-President, Global Health. “We are looking forward to a number of diverse perspectives from experts in a variety of fields.”
As a whole, the series addresses the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals: Goal 3 (Good Health and Well-being), Goal 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), Goal 13 (Climate Action) and Goal 17 (Partnership for the Goals).
The third webinar in the series will take place Monday February 22 at 10:00 a.m. EST with Dr. Jennifer Spence, Executive Secretary of the Sustainable Development Working Group for the Arctic Council.
Click HERE to see the full schedule, registration, and to listen to the recordings of the webinars.