Climate Change and the Health of Indigenous Communities
Indigenous people are among the most directly affected by climate change. Yet, there is limited understanding of the health dimensions of climate change and opportunities for adaptation among indigenous populations. Researchers have tended to focus on other vulnerable regions or on populations as a whole. This tendency has left the health systems of indigenous peoples insufficiently prepared for the risks posed by a changing climate.
Working in three remote regions in Canada, Peru, and Uganda, researchers aim to apply scientific and indigenous knowledge to empower remote indigenous populations to adapt to the health effects of climate change. Research objectives are to:
- characterize and compare the vulnerability of remote indigenous health systems and the ways climate affects food and water insecurity and vector-borne diseases;
- estimate future vulnerability by analyzing how climate change might alter identified health risks and the adaptive capacity of health systems;
- implement and monitor interventions using indigenous and scientific knowledge on health vulnerability and adaptation, working closely with communities, stakeholders, and policymakers;
- develop adaptation plans based on vulnerability assessment, experience from interventions, and comparative analysis that will identify actions to reduce vulnerability and increase adaptability. Adaptation plans will be developed for local to national levels, and will involve collaboration with relevant community and policy stakeholders;
- Identify, train, and equip adaptation leaders in the scientific community, partner organizations, and participating communities; and
- develop an indigenous knowledge bank on health, and the implications for adapting health systems.
At the community level:
- pilot adaptation initiatives embraced by local communities;
- increased awareness of climate-related health risks;
- adaptation planning undertaken; knowledge on adaptation increased; and
- community leaders in adaptation trained.
At the national and regional levels:
- climate change and health planning integrated; and
- regional partners trained in climate change.
At the international level:
- more comprehensive treatment of indigenous peoples in climate assessments (e.g., IPCC);
- comparative understanding of vulnerability factors; and
- increased awareness of the needs of indigenous peoples.
At the scientific level:
- availability of cutting-edge science on health system vulnerability; and
- students trained in the field of adaptation to climate change.