The SDWG Arctic Human Health Expert Group (AHHEG) is an integrated research community with interest in circumpolar community health and wellness. The mandate of this expert group is to support and advance knowledge gained through ecosystem and community based research to support circumpolar communities in developing practical responses to the human health impacts.
Moreover, the AHHEG aims toward greater collaboration and synergies between Arctic Council Working Groups, Indigenous peoples and other Arctic inhabitants and organizations, academic institutions and other relevant circumpolar organizations in the development of sustainable and integrated approaches to address attendant human health issues.
The AHHEG comprises a range of specialized circumpolar human health professionals:
SDWG Arctic State Heads of Delegation and Permanent Participant Organizations and circumpolar human health non-governmental organizations, and others as approved by the SDWG, nominate representatives to participate in the work of the AHHEG. The members are appointed by each member state and Permanent Participant. There is no restriction on the number of AHHEG specialists who may observe and be called on to provide the group with technical expertise
The AHHEG is responsible for framing the SDWG human health agenda, proposing priorities and projects, assessing proposals for actions which will contribute to the advancement of a knowledge-base on circumpolar human health.
The AHHEG serves as the focal point on matters pertaining to human health within the SDWG. It is also a resource to the AC and its Working Groups on broader cross-cutting health research and activities, as well as the point of entry for AC Working Groups and human health stakeholders interested in working with SDWG on human health issues and priorities.
The AHHEG may provide advice to Senior Arctic Officials (SAOs), if requested, and to other human health stakeholders on current issues of relevance to the circumpolar human health community. It also provides guidance on how to better coordinate information-exchange and to better communicate SDWG human health results, analyses and findings emerging from its activities to the AC and to other international human health organizations. The AHHEG also formulates proposals for consideration and approval, through the SDWG, by SAOs and AC Ministers.
The AHHEG is a subsidiary body of the SDWG. Accordingly, pursuant to Rule 28 of the Rules of Procedure of the Arctic Council, the activities of the AHHEG are subject to the Rules of Procedure.
1. To establish an interdisciplinary group of health experts and researchers, statisticians, social scientists, community health specialists and others to provide from an Arctic region perspective further insight on the relationship between human health and society.
The research proposed would build upon the health findings and knowledge gaps such as those identified in the Arctic Human Development Report (2004). This would include but is not limited to: the effects resulting from rapidly changing social and economic conditions impacting the health and wellness of circumpolar communities; the changing patterns of chronic disease; the high rates of injuries that occur in Arctic regions and the continuing health disparities that exist between Indigenous and non Indigenous segments of the Arctic populations.
The Arctic Climate Impact Assessment has also provided a scope of recommendations relating to community-based human health impacts resulting from climate change which the
SDWG/AHHEG could consider in its current and longer term work plans.
2. To fully engage Indigenous peoples and other Arctic inhabitants and organizations in developing the research instruments and in understanding community responses.
By better engaging and drawing on the knowledge of Indigenous Peoples, the Arctic Council and its Working Groups will gain a fuller understanding of circumpolar human health issues. Currently, their knowledge of traditional practice and experience with development and change in the Arctic region is not applied as it could be and eventually may be lost. Moreover, the work undertaken on human health impacts is not reaching individuals at the community level. If the work of the Council is to be of benefit to circumpolar residents it must include the community from the initiation through to the conclusion of its work.
A greater profile for, and a strategic approach to addressing human health in the Arctic could facilitate the mentoring of a new generation of Arctic health workers and researchers by drawing attention to the significance of the issues under consideration, creating a positive culture of health and helping to re-generate Arctic health, Arctic health care, and self-sufficiency.
3. To strengthen cooperation and collaboration between Arctic Council Working Groups, academic institutions as well as circumpolar human health organizations.
To ensure synergy between programs and to avoid duplication of effort, AC Working Groups need to develop linkages and partnerships with other relevant circumpolar human health organizations and non-governmental organizations. Principal among these organizations are the
International Union for Circumpolar Health (IUCH), International Network of Circumpolar Health Researchers (INCHR), European Union Northern Dimension (EU-ND) Partnership in Public Health and Social Well-being (NDPHS), Co-operation Program on Health and Related Issues in the Barents Euro Arctic Region (BEAC) and Northern Forum (NF).
The AHHEG will also collaborate with and draw from other AC Working Groups’ expertise as well as other circumpolar human health stakeholders to develop cohesive responses on cross-cutting human health issues and activities such as environmental contaminants, climate change and other human health impacts as determined.
Improved coordination and collaboration in the Arctic region could lead to improved collection and analysis of health related data by promoting the standardization and harmonization of health assessment tools and methods. Guidelines or principles of conduct are a first step toward providing a foundation for mutual understanding of community and researcher needs and goals, and to ensure that research is carried out in a considered manner. This would include definition of terms, informed consent processes, data access policies and procedures, data collection and storage, data analysis and reporting domestically, and internationally.
4. To provide timely communications and outreach on the activities of the AHHEG at meetings, conferences and gatherings.
The current AC human health activity has produced valuable knowledge but has been less successful in transferring the science into meaningful actions at the community level. This transfer of knowledge into actions is needed to be further communicated to politicians, decision makers, health service providers and educators in the circumpolar region to develop health enhancing policies and practices at the community/regional levels. The SDWG also hopes to build on the considerable human talent and resources based in other organizations and within universities to enhance and expand its capacity to generate valuable human health knowledge.
Kingdom of Denmark
Christina Viskum Lytken Larsen