Health & Well-being

Enhance understanding of health determinants and improve the well-being of Arctic residents

Arctic societies are known for their historic capacity for adaptation and resilience. But, northern residents are now facing an unprecedented combination of climate and environmental change, new opportunities for commercial and industrial development, and social and economic transformations (Arctic Human Development Report 2004; Arctic Human Development Report II 2014). Such changes present significant challenges and opportunities. For example, the rapidly changing environment in the Arctic poses new risks to food, water, and energy security with implications for the health and well-being of Arctic residents. This is an opportunity for Federal agencies to work collaboratively with Arctic residents on research to foster adaptation and mitigation strategies to meet emerging needs.

State, local, and tribal authorities—and community members themselves—may be confronted with critical choices based on anticipated threats: stronger and more frequent storms, increasing coastal erosion, thawing permafrost, changing marine mammal and bird migration patterns, ocean acidification, sea level rise, changes in local vegetation due to warmer temperatures, and increased fires. Further, many Arctic populations are also experiencing heritage and language loss, shifting economies, population migration, mental illness, and high rates of suicide. Arctic residents need reliable and timely data and innovative research approaches to make knowledge-based decisions that consider the immediate and future impacts on existing infrastructure and community services, human health, subsistence activities, cultural and linguistic vitality, and overall food security.

A coordinated, evidence-based, government-wide plan can help support and strengthen the capacity of Arctic residents to adapt and respond to new challenges. Consistent with recommendations from the Alaska Arctic Policy Commission (AAPC 2015) and Indigenous organizations such as the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC Arctic Policy 2016), efforts are being made to use Indigenous Knowledge (IK) and/or Local Knowledge (LK) in community-based research and to use multiple knowledge systems to inform management, health, and environmental decisions.

The following Research Objectives reflect this integrated approach to Federal research commitments directly related to the Well-being policy driver, with implications for Stewardship and Security drivers as well. The determinants of health and well-being are wide-ranging, and it is beyond the scope of this Plan to catalog all of the research, programs, or services related to the health of Arctic residents. Instead, the Health and Well-being Goal is focused mainly on Federally-funded research activities that feature interagency collaborations and that are expected to produce tangible results during the time-span of this Plan. There are many excellent examples of ongoing health research that do not fit these criteria and are not included herein.

The work focuses on the following objectives

Learn more about the Health & Well-being Collaboration Team implementing this section of the plan.

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