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Post-Doctoral Position: Climate Change and Health Among Inuit Populations

Complementary projects in response to climate change in the North:

1) Capacity Building of Environment and Health Surveillance in Inuit Regions, and
2) Better understanding the influence of climate change on food security

A one to two year post-doctoral fellow is sought to work with research
teams on two Arcticnet projects dealing with climate change and health
among Inuit populations in northern Canada. The main project's purpose
is to augment the capacity of public health surveillance systems,
environmental monitoring systems, and their interface with respect to
health protection of Inuit populations in response to climate change.
The second project will focus on one particular aspect of the way
climate change may be influencing health status in the North, and that
is by investigating the impacts of
climate and environmental change on food security in small northern communities.

The individual will have a multidisciplinary background and/or
appropriate experience in one of the following areas: health sciences,
particularly public health, community health or health administration
or human geography, nutrition, medical anthropology,
environmental studies, or risk assessment, with experience in
surveillance or monitoring. Experience in qualitative (semi-directed
interviews, surveys, qualitative analysis) and quantitative methods
(univariate and multivariate statistics, risk analysis with programs
such as @risk) will be an asset.  The individual must be fluent in
English with strong written and oral communications skills. Experience
working in or with northern communities is preferred. Solid
interpersonal skills are required and French language skills
are an asset.

A number of health endpoints have the potential to be either directly
(e.g. injury) or indirectly (e.g. nutrient profile shift) influenced by
reported climate changes from Nunatsiavut in the East to Inuvialuit in
the West.  Several studies at large have identified associations
between health outcomes and climate change. A small number of studies
have begun to document the reporting of adverse health problems
associated with climate change in the Canadian North. In terms of
health endpoints there are mortality, morbidity, injury, social
determinants including physical infrastructure, community wellness,
search and rescue and biomonitoring (human tissues) indicators that
have the potential to be influenced by one or several climate related
changes. These climate related indicators are grouped as weather, ice,
water levels, permafrost and erosion, biota, drinking water,
biomonitoring.  Public health surveillance is the systematic
collection and   analysis of appropriate data and the
health protection actions that follow as a result of such data systems.

Traditional food is well documented as a critical resource to northern
populations for its nutritional, economic, social and cultural
benefits. However, these important foods are also the main source of
exposure for many environmental contaminants among northern Aboriginal
people via their traditional diet based on land and sea species. 
Climate related changes in the North have been associated with
alterations in animal, fish and plant population distribution,
abundance, morphology, behaviour and community structure
(availability). Climate changes have also been associated with
changes in ice, snow, precipitation regimes, and other environmental
factors potentially influencing travel and transportation in the
North.  Recent work has suggested that these climate related
changes may influence components of Inuit traditional food
security.  In this way, climate has the potential to influence
nutrition and health
status in relation to such things as the incidence of disease,
contaminant affected health outcomes (e.g. child development) and
general individual and community health related to aspects of diet and

The surveillance project is taking a participatory approach to capacity
building of the networks of managers responsible for surveillance
(health indicators) and monitoring (environmental indicators).  In
its first phase (2004-2006), case studies of the state of health
surveillance and environmental monitoring were undertaken.  Case
study results will be released in the form of reports in 2006. 
The case studies (one per Inuit region) accessed published and
unpublished documentation and carried out interviews with informants
responsible for data pertaining to any of the categories of indicators
of interest. This portrait will enable the evaluation of strengths and
weaknesses within these systems and enable the development of a
strategy to move towards capacity
building.  The development of a network of partners and initiation
of pilot projects will mark the beginning of phase 2 of the project
(2006-2009).  Policy recommendations for strengthening public
health surveillance are also part of the expected outcomes.

The food security project is taking a mixed qualitative and
quantitative focus on: 1) nutrition and potential changes in intake of
nutrients; 2) exposure to contaminants and 3) levels of food security
(availability and access to traditional foods).  The
research seeks to investigate to what extent, and how climate change is
affecting the traditional diet profile of northern Aboriginal residents
presently and potentially into the future and what implications this
may have for individual and community health.

Post details:
Salary of 40-50k depending on experience.  Start date: Spring or
summer 2006. Location: Quebec City University Hospital Research Center
(CHUQ) with some travel in the Canadian North and other
locations.  Application deadline: open.  Informal inquiries

Contact persons:
Pierre Gosselin MD (PI on the surveillance project):
418 650 5115 ext. 5205

Christopher Furgal PhD (PI on the nutrition project and
co-investigator on the surveillance project):
418 656 4141 ext.46521