Arctic residents can be exposed to a wide range of contaminants through consumption of traditional (country) foods (i.e. food from wild animals and plants that are hunted, caught or collected locally in the Arctic). Yet these foods provide excellent nutrition, promote social cohesion, meet some spiritual needs for connectedness to the land and water, reinforce cultural ties, are economically important and promote overall good health for many. The risk and benefit balance associated with the consumption of traditional Arctic foods is complicated to communicate and has been referred to as the "Arctic Dilemma". This article gives an update on health risk communication in the Arctic region. It briefly summarizes some research on risk communication methodologies as well as approaches to an evaluation of the outcomes of risk communication initiatives. It provides information on specific initiatives in several Arctic countries, and particularly those that were directed at Indigenous populations. This article also summarizes some international versus local risk communication activities and the complexity of developing and delivering messages designed for different audiences. Finally, the potential application of social media for risk communication and a summary of "best practices" based on published literature and a survey of Inuit in a few Arctic countries are described.
Several of the risk communication initiatives portrayed in this article indicate that there is only limited awareness of the outcome of risk communication messages. In some cases, risk communication efforts appear to have been successful, at least when effectiveness is measured in an indirect way, for example, by lower contaminant levels. However, due to missing effectiveness evaluation studies, uncertainty remains as to whether a specific risk communication method was successful and could be clearly linked to behavioural changes that resulted in decreased contaminant exposure.
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Federal, provincial and municipal leaders in Canada have adopted a culture of preparedness with the development and update of emergency plans in anticipation of different types of disasters. As evident during the 2003 global outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), it is important to provide support for health care workers (HCWs) who are vulnerable during infectious outbreak scenarios. Here we focus on the identification and evaluation of existing support mechanisms incorporated within emergency plans across various jurisdictional levels.
Qualitative content analysis of 12 emergency plans from national, provincial and municipal levels were conducted using NVIVO software. The plans were scanned and coded according to 1) informational, 2) instrumental, and 3) emotional support mechanisms for HCWs and other first responders.
Emergency plans were comprised of a predominance of informational and instrumental supports, yet few emotional or social support mechanisms. All the plans lacked gender-based analysis of how infectious disease outbreaks impact male and female HCWs differently. Acknowledgement of the need for emotional supports was evident at higher jurisdictional levels, but recommended for implementation locally.
While support mechanisms for HCWs are included in this sample of emergency plans, content analysis revealed few emotional or social supports planned for critical personnel; particularly for those who will be required to work in extremely stressful conditions under significant personal risk. The implications of transferring responsibilities for support to local and institutional jurisdictions are discussed.
A PROGRAM OF ACTION AND COOPERATION: Since 2001, a series of measures have been taken by the Member States, the European Union and the International authorities to reinforce the preparation and response to biological and chemical terrorist acts. It is essential that the Member States can mutually consult and coordinate their preparation and response as widely as possible. THE ROLE OF THE HEALTH SECURITY COMMITTEE: Together with the health security committee, the European Union has setup a mechanism of consultation and coordination that can be recommend and guide joint action in an emergency, and guarantee the coherence of the counter-actions throughout the Union. This is a committee also constitutes the framework within which the emergency strategies and model-simulations are exchange, and in which assistance in the form of expertise and other resources can be obtained among the Member States. IN THE YEARS TO COME: The future European Centre for the prevention and control of disease, the implantation and functioning of which will start in Sweden in 2005, will play a fundamental part in the harmonisation of the European response to any eventual terrorist acts, whether biological or chemical.