Aboriginal Health Round Table, Global Development Symposium

I’m very excited to highlight a special session that I co-organized with Sherilee Harper at the Global Development Symposium. This 2 hour session featured presentations, audience activities, and loads of great discussions on the topic of Indigenous Health in Canada. In particular, the presence of Charlotte Wolfrey and Inez Shiwak from the Inuit community of Rigolet, Nunatsiavut, Labrador, and our long-time collaborators and research partners, added tremendous depth and perspective to the discussions. Thanks to everyone who came out last week and made this session such a dynamic and inspiring dialogue!

Community-led Research as an Environmental Health Strategy in Indigenous Communities: Experiences and stories from Northern Canada

Session Panel:

  • Sherilee Harper, Assistant Professor, University of Guelph
  • Ashlee Cunsolo Willox, CRC, Assistant Professor, Cape Breton University
  • Charlotte Wolfrey, AngajukKâk (Mayor), Rigolet Inuit Community Government
  • Inez Shiwak, My Word Storytelling and Digital Media Lab, Rigolet Inuit Community Government
  • Margot Parkes, CRC, Associate Professor, University of Northern British Columbia

Session Abstract:

Global environmental and climatic change can have adverse impacts on health and wellbeing, especially for Indigenous populations who often rely on local ecosystems for livelihoods, culture, and partial subsistence.  As such, research on how to adapt to the impacts of environmental and climatic change on Indigenous health has been increasing in the past decade.  Many adaptation plans include principles of capacity development, community participation, sustainability, and systems thinking, with a focus on developing tangible program  outcomes.  From experiences designing and delivering health-related community-based and community-led research initiatives across the North, we argue that research, and engaging in and leading research processes, can also be a potential adaptation strategy and may increase adaptive capacities.

In order to explore the potential for health research to become an adaptation strategy in and of itself, this session will 1) provide an overview of environmental change and health adaptation across the North, and the importance of moving from community participation to community leadership in research; 2) share research design and delivery insights from community-led research initiatives conducted across the Canadian North physical and mental health to inform health adaptation; and 3) discuss how innovative digital data collection methodologies can foster, support, and mobilize community-led climate change and health adaptation research in Indigenous communities across the North.

These presentations will illustrate how Inuit and Northern First Nations communities are taking control of their own research agenda, and actively undertake projects which meet the needs and priorities of the community in meaningful and locally-appropriate manners—research that moves from a community-based to a community-led framework, allowing communities to increase their overall research capacity, respond rapidly to research questions and needs that emerge, and actively create evidence-based health adaptation strategies in the communities to respond to the challenges of a rapidly changing environment.

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