Children and youth in the circumpolar region are the future leaders and policy makers of the Arctic. The Arctic Council has recently completed the first stage of an assessment of the health status of these children and youth in order to identify issues that need to be addressed by government and community leaders to ensure their healthy development. With Canada taking the lead in this project, support was provided from the other seven circumpolar states and the WHO. While the availability of data at this point somewhat hampers comparisons between countries, some clear trends are evident. BY Dr. Lynn Brodsky & Dr. Andrew Gilman
Infant mortality rates have declined over time but are still highest among indigenous populations. Rates of preterm birth and lower birth weights are also higher in this group. While a very high proportion of children across all eight circumpolar states have been immunized against all major childhood diseases, indigenous youth are still at higher risk for Tuberculosis and Chlamydia.
Gender differences were also evident in the data collected to date. Rates of suicide and motor vehicle accidents are highest among males, particularly those males from indigenous populations. The highest risk age group identified was 20-24 year olds, followed by 15-19 year olds.
Future studies plan to collect additional data from the circumpolar states with a focus on temporal trends in health among children and youth, in order to assess changes in their health status over time. These results will be translated into policy actions by governments to improve adverse outcomes.
Dr. Lynn Brodsky, Senior Advisor
Dr. Andrew Gilman, Director
Office of Sustainable
Development Health Canada