Conference Explores Climate Change, Health Effects

May 29, 2014 - News Release

How climate change affects indigenous people is the topic of an international conference beginning today at the University of Guelph.

Called “Indigenous Health Adaptation to Climate Change,” the conference is part of a project examining how climate change affects health in the Canadian Arctic (Inuit), Uganda (Batwa) and Peru (Shipibo and Shawi). Project researchers are studying food security, food- and water-borne disease, and malaria.

The event, running May 29-31, brings together researchers from Guelph, McGill University, and universities in Uganda and Peru, as well as health officials from all three countries.

"These Indigenous communities are in very remote areas and over the last 50 years they have experienced social, economic, and political changes; in many cases, climate change is posing new challenges for them, and is magnifying existing health challenges," said population medicine professor Sherilee Harper, a conference co-organizer and part of the Arctic research team.

“We have the Canadian Arctic, the Peruvian Amazon and the Ugandan impenetrable forest. There is a huge opportunity for these indigenous regions to share and learn from each other to respond to current and future climate change impacts.”

The researchers will discuss how to promote indigenous knowledge and community well-being.

“Personally, it is exciting because, while the three project regions are very different culturally, climatically and economically, they all share common health-related climate change challenges,” said Harper.

Conference participants will include international experts in the social sciences, human and veterinary medicine, geography and epidemiology.

“We want to discuss how our research results inform decision-making on various scales; how our results can improve existing health programs or prompt new programming; how to influence policy; and the ways indigenous knowledge and experience can contribute to climate change adaptation planning and strategies.”

Now in its fourth year, the five-year research project is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and the International Development Research Centre.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338,; or Kevin Gonsalves, Ext. 56982,

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