The Working Groups share the general goals and objectives of the IUCH. By focusing on specific fields of interest within circumpolar health, the Working Groups promote and encourage closer collaboration between individuals and institutions involved in improving the health of circumpolar populations through the exchange of practical experience and research data, and the eventual development of comparable systems and strategies for conducting surveillance, surveys, analytical studies, experimental studies, field trials of interventions, demonstration programs, and so on.
As such, the Working Groups are networks of individuals who share a common interest in specific fields of circumpolar health. Each Working Group exchanges practical experience and research data and develops plans for international collaborative efforts in prevention. The current Guidelines for IUCH Working Groups were published in Arctic Medical Research, vol. 53, no. 4, October 1994, 213-4. The Working Groups are officially recognized and sponsored by the IUCH and they report to the Council.
Currently, some of the working groups are active and some are inactive. Members of the IUCH are encouraged to sign up and participate in working groups. Come prepared with new ideas and renewed energy!
Working Groups Guidelines
The following working group guidelines were adopted by the IUCH Council, September 1, 1994.
- An IUCH Working Group (WG) is a network of individuals who share a common interest in a specific field of circumpolar health, which is officially recognized and sponsored by the IUCH and reports to its council.
- A WG shares the general goals and objectives of the IUCH. By focusing on a specific field of circumpolar health, a WG promotes and encourages closer collaboration between individuals and institutions involved in circumpolar health, a WG promotes and encourages closer collaboration between individuals and institutions involved in circumpolar health and the exchange of practical experience and research data.
- Each WG shall establish its own specific objectives and is responsible for monitoring progress towards meeting its objectives.
- Any member of an adhering body of the IUCH or the IUCH council may propose the formation of a WG. Membership in the WG is open to all interested individuals, whether or not they are members of an adhering body.
- A wide variety of fields are suitable for WGs. These may be based on the type of health problem/disease, health risk/determinant, research design/method, prevention/intervention strategy, or a combination of these. It is desirable for a WG to be multidisciplinary and multinational in orientation and membership.
- While a WG operates informally and collegially, it must have at least one executive/coordinator/contact person responsible to the IUCH Council and with whom the Council can liaise and interact. A WG may also elect additional officers or assign specific tasks to individual members or committees.
- A WG has official status and is entitled to hosting special symposia/workshops in its subject area within the triennial International Congress for Circumpolar Health. A WG may also organize its own meetings, workshops and symposia at any time outside the Circumpolar Health Congress.
- Small sums of seed money are available from the IUCH Council for use of individual WGs.
- WGs are encouraged to apply for external funding to support its activities. The IUCH Secretariat can assist the WG in making such applications and in administering funds if necessary.
- Individual members and institutions are also encouraged to support the activities of WGs from their own research and travel funds.
7. Administrative Procedures
- A WG wishing official IUCH recognition must submit a proposal to the IUCH Council outlining its objectives and planned activities. Depending on the timing, Council may grant its approval at the next regular meeting or after a special mail-in vote of the Council members. If financial assistance from IUCH is required, a budget must also be included with a submission.
- A formal announcement on the formation of a new WG will be made by Council in International Journal of Circumpolar Health.
- A WG must submit an annual report to Council, highlighting its activities during the year and the disposal of funds, if any, which it may have received from Council.
- WGs are encouraged to publish their newsletters in the official organ of the IUCH, International Journal of Circumpolar Health, and to communicate news on their activities to their own members and the broader membership of all IUCH adhering bodies.
- WGs may use the official IUCH letterhead in communications relating to their activities.
- The IUCH Council may terminate the official status of a WG.
Circumpolar Health Systems Working Group
Circumpolar nations share experiences related to climate, geography, history and traditions of Indigenous populations. The provision of health services in this context has proven to be challenging because of human resources challenges, remote settings without road access, historical traumas, and high burden of disease. This working group will aim to facilitate international collaborations in research, decision making and clinical practice. Multi-sector partnerships will aim to develop approaches for enhanced health systems performance in circumpolar nations.
- Chatwood S, Bytautas J, Darychuk A, Bjerregaard P, Brown AD, Cole D, et al. Seminar report: Approaching a collaborative research agenda for health systems performance in circumpolar regions. International Journal of Circumpolar Health. 72
- Young TK, Chatwood S. Health care in the north: what Canada can learn from its circumpolar neighbours. CMAJ. 2011 Feb 8;183(2):209-14. PubMed PMID: 21041430. Pubmed Central PMCID: 3033925. Epub 2010/11/03.
- Young K, Marchildon G. A Comparative Review of Circumpolar Health Systems. Finland: International Association of Circumpolar Health Publishers; 2012
Cancer Working Group
Cancer etiology, incidence and mortality, surveillance methodologies, early screening and prevention programs are featured topics for this Working Group. A comparison of the cancer trends for various tumor sites has been very useful within given ethnic groups across international boundaries in the circumpolar region, and the latest prevention efforts need to be similarly coordinated.
Anne Lanier (aplanier [@] anmc.org)
Congenital Anomalies and Birth Outcome Working Group
There are unique circumstances and challenges to assessing and addressing the rates of congenital anomalies and other pregnancy outcomes in circumpolar regions. Birth and malformation registers have been lacking, but the situation is improving. But still there are regions without population-based registers.
The Working group has published an article describing the situation in detail: Arbour L, Melnikov V, McIntosh S, Olsen B, Osborne G, Vaktskjold A. The current state of birth outcome and birth defect surveillance in northern regions of the world. Int J Circumpolar Health 2009; 68(5).
Congenital anomalies occur in all ethnic groups and geographical regions remaining an important world-wide cause of perinatal mortality and infant and child morbidity. An excess of health care expenditure is allocated to the care of those affected. This is especially true when those affected live in remote geographical locations, especially the circumpolar regions of the world. A large challenge in the circumpolar region is that there is rarely an ability to determine the true rates in ways that are comparable to other populations. Although the causes of birth defects are multifactorial, including genetic predisposition, much can be done to prevent a significant proportion of birth defects. Public health efforts to improve diet, fortification of foods with folic acid, and campaigns to inform on the dangers of teratogenic exposures are all measures that can make a difference.
This working group aims to 1) improve our understanding and knowledge about the causes of differences in pregnancy outcome in the circumpolar region; 2) improve the comparability birth defects rates in the circumpolar region, 3) to determine what birth defects will be amenable to public health efforts and 4) establish cultural-specific public health efforts in circumpolar regions that will prevent birth defects and decrease differences within the region.
We hold separate meetings at the annual meeting of the INCHR, the triennial circumpolar conference, and during other large gatherings of circumpolar health researchers. The Canadian Society for Circumpolar Health (CSCH) and our Working Group would like to encourage you to get involved. We welcome all interested parties.
Working Group Chair
Arild Vaktskjold (Arild.Vaktskjold [@] umb.no)
Laura Arbour (larbour [@] cw.bc.ca)
Members of the Circumpolar network for congenital anomalies and other adverse pregnancy outcomes:
A. Corriveau (CAN), G. Osborne (NUN), M. Moffat, E. Eik Anda (NOR), V. Postoev (AO), A. Kozlovskaja (Komi), T. Burtseva (Sacha), JO. Odland (NOR), V. Melnikov (RU), S. McIntosh (CAN), B. Olsen (GRE), L Talykova (MO), FK. Stenz (GRE), IM Nielson (DK), I Solodikova (RU), M. Gissler (FI), A. Leon (CAN), E. Garne (CAN), A. Erikson (CAN), S Ryan (YUK), J. Schoellhorn (ALA), R Montgomery-Andersen (GRE)
Diet and Heart Working Group
The Diet and Heart Working Group is interested in discussions that include, but are not limited to, modifying known cardiovascular risk factors in an arctic setting using a culturally sensitive approach. We would like to discuss strategies to develop circumpolar intervention studies to improve the health of arctic peoples.
The gradually changing diets of circumpolar populations increases risks for cardiovascular disease (CVD) primarily because of ignorance about what foods are unhealthy. The need for education about dietary components and availability of healthy foods appear to have the highest priorities for minimizing dietary risk factors for CVD.
The discussion group will focus on information sharing on identification of dietary risk factors for arctic populations and the development of prevention studies.
Sven Ebbeson (ffsoe [@] uaf.edu)
Emerging Infectious Diseases Working Group
The relative isolation of many circumpolar communities no longer insulates us from the global threat of new and reemerging infectious diseases. Of particular concern to Arctic residents are the re-emergence of diseases such as tuberculosis, and diphtheria, the emergence of antibiotic resistance among bacteria that were once susceptible to antibiotics (tuberculosis, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Hemophilus influenzae, Staphylococcus aureus, and Enterococcus sp) the appearance of new viruses causing Hepatitis (Hepatitis C), old viruses causing disease outbreaks (Hepatitis A, and Respiratory Syncytial virus), and the infectious causes of cancer (Hepatitis B, Human Papilloma virus, and Helicobacter pylori). The discussion group will focus on information sharing on prevention and control strategies, including surveillance, applied research, and evaluation of potential interventions.
Alan J. Parkinson Ph.D
Arctic Investigations Program
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention
4055 Tudor Center Drive
Anchorage AK 99508
(907) 729 3407
(907) 729 3429 fax
e-mail: ajp1 [@] cdc.gov
Environmental Health Working Group
The distribution of pollutants into the remote areas of the Arctic and their biomagnification in the food chain pose challenges for determining the safety of subsistence foods. In addition to the risks from these pollutants, the benefits of subsistence foods must be acknowledged in risk management decision-making and in risk communication endeavors so that the indigenous peoples of the Arctic can make informed choices. Epidemiologic studies on exposure the health effects, risk assessment, risk management, and risk communication are reviewed and evaluated by this Working Group. They are also in the process of developing public health guidelines regarding the safety of subsistence foods.
Jens Hansen (jch [@] mil.au.dk)
Eric Dewailly (dewailly [@] inspq.qc.ca)
Family Health Working Group
The family provides an important environment for fostering as well as hindering the health of its members. Public health and medical practice could benefit from treating the family and its members as an integrated system. This Working Group would like to examine more closely the role of the family in determining health in rapidly changing societies, and the importance of the family in the delivery of primary health care, especially in remote areas of the North.
Linda Chamberlain (howlinghusky [@] gci.net)
Karen Pearson (kpearson123 [@] msn.com)
Fetal Alcohol Working Group
Maternal alcohol abuse during pregnancy can have significant, if not clearly defined, negative effects on the developing fetus and newborn. This Working Group will focus on the following challenges to public health research: The development of methodologies to determine the nature, extent, and consequences of maternal alcohol abuse; the development of innovative approaches to identifying at-risk women and neonates; and the development and evaluation of prevention and treatment strategies which address the full range of problems facing alcohol-abusing women and their families.
James Berner (jberner [@] anmc.org)
Food Security Working Group
The main goal of the Food Security Working Group is to recognize and foster an understanding of the issues surrounding the global impact of economics, health and the environment on food security, focusing on the circumpolar region.
The Food Security Working Group will:
- Identify what food security is so that the group has a clear definition to work from.
- Develop a forum for discussion and collaboration between interested parties within the circumpolar region on issues pertaining to food security.
- Support food security streams at future ICCH.
- Work to bring attention to food security issues in the circumpolar region through research, advocacy and discussions amongst members.
- Support Northern communities to take ownership for their land and food, to understand where their local food supply comes from, to plan for possible scenarios of low food supplies, and to create sustainability.
- Share current initiatives/programs that are impacting food security.
Jill Christensen (jill_christensen [@] gov.nt.ca)
Sophia Wadowska (sophia_wadowska [@] gov.nt.ca)
Indigenous People’s Working Group
The Indigenous People’s Working Group will:
- Represent and promote the interests of indigenous people of the north
- Provide communication and networking among indigenous people of the north
- Serve as an indigenous people’s voice to the Congress
- Participate in the Congress every three years
- Submit articles to the IJCH (International Journal on Circumpolar Health)
- Present priorities and goals regarding issues of health and well-being of indigenous communities in the circumpolar regions.
Patricia Cochran (pcochran [@] aknsc.org)
Injury Prevention Working Group
Unintentional and intentional injuries are a leading cause of mortality and morbidity in the harsh environment of the North. Both occupational and non-occupational injuries are of special importance in this region, and both are focus areas for this Working Group. Injury classification and surveillance, the role of alcohol and drug abuse, injury risks related to subsistence and work-related activities, and prevention programs are all areas to be addressed by this Working Group.
George Conway (goc1 [@] cdc.gov)
Børge Ytterstad (boergey [@] online.no)
Maternal and Child Health Working Group
The MCH Working Group is in transition and welcomes new members. Areas of current interest include but are not limited to: innovative models of perinatal health services for frontier regions, role(s) of paraprofessionals and lay health workers in improving birth outcomes, interpersonal violence prevention, impact(s) of health literacy and cultural diversity on effective health communication, and multi-cultural models of MCH leadership. We have a particular interest in fostering community-based participatory research in the circumpolar region and welcome your ideas for improving maternal and child health in our communities.
Rhonda M. Johnson, DrPH, CFNP
Chair, Department of Health Sciences
Associate Professor of Public Health
University of Alaska-Anchorage
DPL 404, 3211 Providence Drive
Anchorage, AK 99508-4614
Medical Technologies & Informatics Working Group
The Arctic is the hallmark region where informatics and telehealth is needed.
Telehealth has made great strides here due to the nature of the cooperative relationship of many of the circumpolar nations.
Accessing healthcare is a challenge for Arctic residents when compared to the general populations of the eight nations making up this polar region. These far northern residents face physical difficulties, which include great distances, severe wind and cold, and extremes in light. These conditions can be demanding on the health of those who travel, and can be harmful to the injured, ill, or infirm.
These remote northern communities face fiscal difficulties, such as limited financial support for staff, equipment, care, and transportation. They also face staffing limitations, in which they have few or no doctors, mid-level practitioners and, in some areas, paraprofessional healthcare providers. Maintaining qualified staff with well-practiced and current skills is a hurdle that health centers must address to provide local residents with access to appropriate care. Remote health-care practitioners, while well trained, are not the specialists encountered in larger facilities.
In order for Arctic communities to provide adequate healthcare to its people, there must be a sustainable means of delivering this care at a distance. Telemedicine has been identified as the use of computers, telecommunication, and medical tools that allow physical parameters to be put into an electronic format.
Although telemedicine is part of the larger telehealth concept, and is dependent on systems of telecommunication, it also involves tele-education and other distance delivery systems. The services that are needed and are being delivered at a distance are defining these remote Arctic cities and villages as the “tele-community.”
The National Library of Medicine is one institution that maintains a good portal with many resources to explore some of the benefits of informatics and telehealth for circumpolar health.
Are you interested to hear more?
Karen Perdue (karen.perdue [@] alaska.edu)
Carl Hild (ancmh [@] uaa.alaska.edu)
Occupational Safety and Health Working Group
Occupational safety and health issues in the circumpolar region present medical pracitioners with unique challenges. These challenges are the subject of study by the Occupational Safety and Health Working Group.
George Conway (goc1 [@] cdc.gov)
Juhani Hassi (juhani.hassi [@] oulu.fi)
Population Health Working Group
The Population Health Working Group will support a collaborative international research and knowledge translation program that addresses the complex interactions of factors (i.e., biological, social, cultural, environmental, economic) which determine the health of individuals, communities, and populations across the lifespan.
Canadian Institutes of Health Research
Institute of Aboriginal Peoples’ Health
University of Victoria
PO Box 1700 STN CSC
Victoria, British Columbia
E-mail: nowgesic [@] uvic.ca
Sexually Transmitted Diseases Working Group
STDs (and HIV/AIDS) are public health threats wherever there are risk behaviors and the potential for exposure, even in the remote Arctic. This Working Group will focus on surveillance methodologies and prevention and control interventions. Topics of importance will include the monitoring of findings and results regarding the strengths and weaknesses of current surveillance and prevention activities, as well as the identification of promising new directions and approaches to dealing with identified problems.
Elisabeth Rink (elizabeth.rink [@] montana.edu)
Tobacco & Health Working Group
This Working Group will deal with the characterization of the extent of tobacco-related mortality and morbidity in the North, the identification of high-risk groups, and the design, implementation, and evaluation of prevention programs. A special emphasis will be placed on the effects of passive smoking on the respiratory health of Arctic children who spend a considerable amount of time indoors, especially during the long winter period.
Anne Lanier (aplanier [@] anmc.org)