Climate change is among the major challenges for health this century, and adaptation to manage adverse health outcomes will be unavoidable. The risks in Ontario - Canada's most populous province - include increasing temperatures, more frequent and intense extreme weather events, and alterations to precipitation regimes. Socio-economic-demographic patterns could magnify the implications climate change has for Ontario, including the presence of rapidly growing vulnerable populations, exacerbation of warming trends by heat-islands in large urban areas, and connectedness to global transportation networks. This study examines climate change adaptation in the public health sector in Ontario using information from interviews with government officials.
Fifty-three semi-structured interviews were conducted, four with provincial and federal health officials and 49 with actors in public health and health relevant sectors at the municipal level. We identify adaptation efforts, barriers and opportunities for current and future intervention.
Results indicate recognition that climate change will affect the health of Ontarians. Health officials are concerned about how a changing climate could exacerbate existing health issues or create new health burdens, specifically extreme heat (71%), severe weather (68%) and poor air-quality (57%). Adaptation is currently taking the form of mainstreaming climate change into existing public health programs. While adaptive progress has relied on local leadership, federal support, political will, and inter-agency efforts, a lack of resources constrains the sustainability of long-term adaptation programs and the acquisition of data necessary to support effective policies.
This study provides a snapshot of climate change adaptation and needs in the public health sector in Ontario. Public health departments will need to capitalize on opportunities to integrate climate change into policies and programs, while higher levels of government must improve efforts to support local adaptation and provide the capacity through which local adaptation can succeed.
James D. Ford is with the Department of Geography, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec. Ashlee Cunsolo Willox is with the Department of Community Health, Cape Breton University, Sydney, Nova Scotia. Susan Chatwood is with the Institute for Circumpolar Health Research, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. Christopher Furgal is with the Department of Indigenous Environmental Studies, Trent University, Peterborough, Ontario. Sherilee Harper is with the Department of Population Medicine, University of Guelph, Ontario. Ian Mauro is with the Department of Geography, University of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Tristan Pearce is with the University of the Sunshine Coast, Maroochydor, Queensland, Australia.
Climate change will have far-reaching implications for Inuit health. Focusing on adaptation offers a proactive approach for managing climate-related health risks-one that views Inuit populations as active agents in planning and responding at household, community, and regional levels. Adaptation can direct attention to the root causes of climate vulnerability and emphasize the importance of traditional knowledge regarding environmental change and adaptive strategies. An evidence base on adaptation options and processes for Inuit regions is currently lacking, however, thus constraining climate policy development. In this article, we tackled this deficit, drawing upon our understanding of the determinants of health vulnerability to climate change in Canada to propose key considerations for adaptation decision-making in an Inuit context.
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For emerging public health risks such as climate change, the Canadian federal government has a mandate to provide information and resources to protect citizens' health. Research is a key component of this mandate and is essential if Canada is to moderate the health effects of a changing climate. We assessed whether federal support for climate change and health research is consistent with the risks posed. We audited projects receiving federal support between 1999 and 2009, representing an investment of Can$16 million in 105 projects. Although funding has increased in recent years, it remains inadequate, with negligible focus on vulnerable populations, limited research on adaptation, and volatility in funding allocations. A federal strategy to guide research support is overdue.
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This paper uses a mixed methods approach to characterise the experience of food insecurity among Inuit community members in Igloolik, Nunavut, and examine the conditions and processes that constrain access, availability, and quality of food. We conducted semi-structured interviews (n= 66) and focus groups (n= 10) with community members, and key informant interviews with local and territorial health professionals and policymakers (n= 19). The study indicates widespread experience of food insecurity. Even individuals and households who were food secure at the time of the research had experienced food insecurity in the recent past, with food insecurity largely transitory in nature. Multiple determinants of food insecurity operating over different spatial-temporal scales are identified, including food affordability and budgeting, food knowledge and preferences, food quality and availability, environmental stress, declining hunting activity, and the cost of harvesting. These determinants are operating in the context of changing livelihoods and climate change, which in many cases are exacerbating food insecurity, although high-order manifestations of food insecurity (that is, starvation) are no longer experienced.
To identify and characterize the determinants of food insecurity among Inuit women.
A community-based study in Igloolik, Nunavut, using semi-structured interviews (n = 36) and focus groups (n = 5) with Inuit women, and key informants interviews with health professionals (n = 13).
There is a high prevalence of food insecurity among Inuit females in Igloolik, with women in the study reporting skipping meals and reducing food intake on a regular basis. Food insecurity is largely transitory in nature and influenced by food affordability and budgeting; food knowledge; education and preferences; food quality and availability; absence of a full-time hunter in the household; cost of harvesting; poverty; and addiction. These determinants are operating in the context of changing livelihoods and climate-related stresses.
Inuit women's food insecurity in Igloolik is the outcome of multiple determinants operating at different spatial-temporal scales. Climate change and external socio-economic stresses are exacerbating difficulties in obtaining sufficient food. Coping strategies currently utilized to manage food insecurity are largely reactive and short-term in nature, and could increase food system vulnerability to future stresses. Intervention by local, territorial and federal governments is required to implement, coordinate and monitor strategies to enhance women's food security, strengthen the food system, and reduce vulnerability to future stressors.
As climate change impacts are felt around the globe, people are increasingly exposed to changes in weather patterns, wildlife and vegetation, and water and food quality, access and availability in their local regions. These changes can impact human health and well-being in a variety of ways: increased risk of foodborne and waterborne diseases; increased frequency and distribution of vector-borne disease; increased mortality and injury due to extreme weather events and heat waves; increased respiratory and cardiovascular disease due to changes in air quality and increased allergens in the air; and increased susceptibility to mental and emotional health challenges. While climate change is a global phenomenon, the impacts are experienced most acutely in place; as such, a sense of place, place-attachment, and place-based identities are important indicators for climate-related health and adaptation. Representing one of the first qualitative case studies to examine the connections among climate change, a changing sense of place, and health in an Inuit context, this research draws data from a multi-year community-driven case study situated in the Inuit community of Rigolet, Nunatsiavut, Canada. Data informing this paper were drawn from the narrative analysis of 72 in-depth interviews conducted from November 2009 to October 2010, as well as from the descriptive analysis of 112 questionnaires from a survey in October 2010 (95% response rate). The findings illustrated that climate change is negatively affecting feelings of place attachment by disrupting hunting, fishing, foraging, trapping, and traveling, and changing local landscapes-changes which subsequently impact physical, mental, and emotional health and well-being. These results also highlight the need to develop context-specific climate-health planning and adaptation programs, and call for an understanding of place-attachment as a vital indicator of health and well-being and for climate change to be framed as an important determinant of health.
Indigenous populations have been identified as vulnerable to climate change. This framing, however, is detached from the diverse geographies of how people experience, understand, and respond to climate-related health outcomes, and overlooks nonclimatic determinants. I reviewed research on indigenous health and climate change to capture place-based dimensions of vulnerability and broader determining factors. Studies focused primarily on Australia and the Arctic, and indicated significant adaptive capacity, with active responses to climate-related health risks. However, nonclimatic stresses including poverty, land dispossession, globalization, and associated sociocultural transitions challenge this adaptability. Addressing geographic gaps in existing studies alongside greater focus on indigenous conceptualizations on and approaches to health, examination of global-local interactions shaping local vulnerability, enhanced surveillance, and an evaluation of policy support opportunities are key foci for future research.
This study maps current understanding and research trends on the human dimensions of climate change (HDCC) in the eastern and central Canadian Arctic. Developing a systematic literature review methodology, 117 peer reviewed articles are identified and examined using quantitative and qualitative methods. The research highlights the rapid expansion of HDCC studies over the last decade. Early scholarship was dominated by work documenting Inuit observations of climate change, with research employing vulnerability concepts and terminology now common. Adaptation studies which seek to identify and evaluate opportunities to reduce vulnerability to climate change and take advantage of new opportunities remain in their infancy. Over the last 5 years there has been an increase social science-led research, with many studies employing key principles of community-based research. We currently have baseline understanding of climate change impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability in the region, but key gaps are evident. Future research needs to target significant geographic disparities in understanding, consider risks and opportunities posed by climate change outside of the subsistence hunting sector, complement case study research with regional analyses, and focus on identifying and characterizing sustainable and feasible adaptation interventions.
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This paper examines search and rescue and backcountry medical response constraints in the Canadian Arctic and potential for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) to aid in response and preparedness. Semi-structured interviews (n = 18) were conducted with search and rescue responders, Elders, and emergency management officials to collect data on current emergency response and potential for UAV use. UAV test flights (n = 17) were undertaken with community members. We analyzed five years of weather data to examine UAV flight suitability. Numerous challenges face Arctic search and rescue and backcountry emergency response. Changing social and environmental conditions were described as increasing vulnerability to backcountry emergencies. Responders desired additional first aid and emergency training. Legal and weather restrictions were found to limit where, when and who could fly UAVs. UAVs were demonstrated to have potential benefits for hazard monitoring but not for SAR or medical response due to legal restrictions, weather margins, and local capacity. We find that communities are ill-prepared for ongoing SAR demands, let alone a larger disaster. There are numerous limitations to the use of consumer UAVs by Arctic communities. Prevention of backcountry medical emergencies, building resilience to disasters, and first responder training should be prioritized over introducing UAVs to the response system.