Living healthy north of the 49th parallel
For the past year, the North has received unprecedented coverage in canadian media. The conservative government has made the headlines with its Canada’s Northern Strategy, a program which proposes concrete measures to insure the sovereignty of Canada in the Arctic, protect its environmental heritage, promote its social and economic development and improve its governance.
The provincial government of Quebec (defeated in the election of September, 2012) was not left out. He also developed a “Plan Nord”, that is, "one of the biggest economic, social and environmental projects in our time" for regions located north the 49th parallel, promising billions of dollars in investments and the creation of thousands of jobs.
Yet, a sustainable development in the North cannot disregard the health of the populations living there, nor of those who will settle down in the wake of all these projects. Thus, Hinnovic takes this opportunity to examine the current health needs of northern populations and to highlight some health innovations arising from remote areas.
A limited access to health care and services
Northern regions are characterized by small, isolated communities, where diverse native and non-native populations mingle. They share a limited access to first-line and specialized healthcare services, which implies that people may have to travel hundreds and even thousands of kilometres to receive appropriate treatments.
Specific health problems
Northern communities’ main health preoccupations are food insecurity, mental health, women and children’s health, and infectious or chronic diseases (Young and Chatwood, 2011). Though these problems may not be different in nature from those of people living in the South, they are exacerbated by a limited access to quality food in sufficient quantity, inadequate housing and too often noxious social and economic policies.
Yet, as evidenced by the contributors to our dossier, northern communities not only show an amazing resilience to the difficulties they encounter, but also great creativity in the search and implementation of concrete solutions to their problems. And this is what Hinnovic wanted to highlight in this dossier: original and innovative initiatives, developed with northern communities to improve population health.
In this dossier
Faisca Richer, medical officer in the “Santé des Autochtones” team of the Institut national de santé publique du Québec, entices public health practitioners and researchers to be more receptive to the needs that are explicitly formulated by native populations and to work closely with them in finding solutions.
Geoffrey Tesson, one of the founders of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, explains the importance of integrating practitioners in remote communities, right from their training, to better align practices and needs.
Réal Lacombe, Director of the Agence de la santé et des services sociaux de l’Abitibi-Témiscamingue, explains what can be collectively learned from practicing in remote areas.
Grace Egeland of the University of Bergen in Norway, summarizes the results of a survey on the health of Inuit, conducted in partnership with these communities.
Lucie Nadeau, a psychiatrist at the Montreal Children’s Hospital, shares her experience among inuit communities and discusses a suicide prevention program implemented at the request and with the collaboration of the atikamekw community.
Hinnovic summarizes an interesting comparative analysis of health indicators, services and policies of the eight countries members of the Arctic Council, namely Canada, the United States (Alaska), Russia, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark (Greenland and Faroe Islands) and Iceland.
Also relevant to this dossier
The interview we had conducted on Telemedicine and Health in Northern Quebec with Johanne Morel, paediatrician at the Montreal Children’s Hospital, and Johanne Desrochers, Associate Director of Telehealth programs at McGill University.
|Author :||Myriam Hivon, Ph.D.