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International Polar Year: McGill researchers explore Inuit health

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Published: 1 Mar 2007

What factors contribute to the health of the Inuit and their ability to deal with change? A study headed by Grace Egeland, professor with the School of Dietetics and Human Nutrition and researcher with the Centre for Indigenous Peoples' Nutrition and Environment (CINE) at McGill University, will attempt to answer this question as part of the myriad questions being asked and answered within International Polar year, which starts today.

What factors contribute to the health of the Inuit and their ability to deal with change? A study headed by Grace Egeland, professor with the School of Dietetics and Human Nutrition and researcher with the Centre for Indigenous Peoples' Nutrition and Environment (CINE) at McGill University, will attempt to answer this question as part of the myriad questions being asked and answered within International Polar year, which starts today.

Titled Qanuipitali or “And How Are We?” the study will compile data on the health of the people of the far north in three sections: Health of adults aged 18 and over, children under the age of five and households. Inuit participation in this CINE study will be entirely voluntary.

“This study will help in making informed decisions for adapting to the consequences of changes in all facets of life, including climate changes,” explained Professor Egeland. “As well, public health policies can then be developed, based on the monitoring of factors associated with certain diseases, conducted in association with Greenland, Nunavik and Alaska.”

The study is supported within the framework of International Polar Year (IPY). It will be conducted by Professor Egeland’s team, which includes McGill researchers Hope Weiler and Harriet Kuhlein, as well as researchers from the University of Toronto, Laval University, University of Northern British Columbia, University of Victoria and University of Manitoba.

McGill University already conducts world-renowned research on climate change and other issues in Canada’s far north, notably at the McGill Arctic Research Station (MARS) in Nunavut, which is used by McGill and other institutions from NASA to the Canadian Museum of Nature to explore glaciology, climate change, permafrost hydrology, geology, geomorphology, limnology, planetary analogues, and microbiology.

International Polar Year officially continues until 2009. The International Council for Science (ICSU) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) are sponsoring this international scientific program, which will include research in the Arctic and Antarctic. Studies will also explore the ties between the poles and the rest of the planet. The poles serve as barometers reflecting climate changes that result from human activities. Sixty countries are taking part in this initiative; it is the fourth time it has been presented in 125 years.

The first part of this McGill study will take place in Nunavut. The team will travel from village to village on the Canadian Coast Guard vessel Amundsen. From August 10 to September 25, 2007, they will visit 19 communities in Nunavut. In 2008, the researchers will visit the Western Arctic (Inuvialuit) and Labrador (Nunatsiavut).

On the Web: International Polar Year

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Contact: Nadine Fortin
Organization: McGill University
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