Mélanie Lemire, Département de médecine sociale et préventive
A close collaboration with Indigenous populations
The mission of the Nasivvik Chair is to develop interdisciplinary research and intervention initiatives in close partnership with Indigenous communities to help understand the complex effects of environmental change on health and to support prevention and promotion efforts related to northern ecosystems and their role in sustaining health and wellbeing.
Rapidly changing nordic environments
Northern ecosystems are undergoing rapid changes and Indigenous peoples, who cultivate strong ties with their environment, are particularly vulnerable to these changes. Université Laval’s research in the Arctic played a key role in negotiations leading to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) and, more recently, the Minamata Convention on mercury. While POPs are declining, mercury is still a topical issue in the North. Furthermore, many new chemicals brought to market each year subsequently end up at the poles, with unknown impacts on the health of its inhabitants. Natural resources exploitation and climate change are also putting increasing pressure on northern environments and affecting the health of northern populations in many ways, including through the contamination of locally sourced foods and food insecurity, an issue throughout the North.
Indigenous knowledge highlights the importance of local foods for health and well-being. Modern science supports this knowledge: foods from the ocean are exceptionally rich in essential nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids and selenium. Wild berries and other northern plants are also a key source of polyphenols. These foods offer unique potential to bring together a range of knowledge aimed at preventing chronic illness and the effects of environmental contaminants on health.
Nasivvik Research Chair activities – 2016/2020 Horizon
The research chair dovetails perfectly with university and faculty directions in sustainable health and social responsibility The chair focuses on these next objectives:
- Contribute to environmental monitoring of chemical contaminants in traditional foods among northern populations
- Study the effects of these contaminants on human health as well as the effects of nutrients / contaminants interactions in food and on health
- Study zoonoses prevalence and incidence, and their environmental and social determinants in the North
- Study the effects of local and regional development on the chemical and microbiological quality of drinking water and/or local foods, and their impact on the health of northern populations and workers
- Study the impact of climate and ecosystem changes on local food systems and northern health
- Mobilize knowledge into action:
- Integrate, share and discuss research results with co-researchers, decision-makers and key actors in Nordic regions
- Develop, implement and evaluate projects, especially with the youth, and in close partnership with local and regional stakeholders
- Build capacities of indigenous youth in health research, as well as practitioners working in health and social services, environment, and education sectors
- Contribute to national risk assessment initiatives and to the implementation of public health policies
- Participate in national and international councils on Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP)
The Nasivvik Research Chair, a continuity of the Centre for Inuit Health and Changing Environments