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A Forum on Human Health and Wellbeing


Estimated time: Two back-to-back sessions, each 90 minutes in length


Organizers (AHDR and UArctic):

Dr. Joan Nymand Larsen, Stefansson Arctic Institute & University of Akureyri, Iceland

Dr. Kirsi Latola, Thule Institute, University of Oulu, Finland

Dr. Arja Rautio, Thule Institute, University of Oulu, Finland


Chair of session:

Dr. Joan Nymand Larsen, Stefansson Arctic Institute & University of Akureyri, Iceland 


Human health and wellbeing are the result of complex interactions between genetic, social cultural and environmental factors. Change due to globalization and global climate change presents many potential threats for human health in the Arctic. Some of those are old ones (e.g. low life expectancy, suicides, mental disorders, violence, alcohol and drug abuse), but there will be new ones, such as new infectious diseases, obesity and diabetes. Changes in communities and environment together with livelihoods (e.g. mining, shipping) will present new challenges including risk of marginalization for new groups. In the future a majority of the Arctic population will live in small or big cities and the challenges for human health and wellbeing may be different for those in rural areas. A more holistic approach will help support good life in the Arctic.

This forum will bring together senior researchers, health administrators, service providers, and local residents to discuss issues of relevance to human development in the North with a specific focus on human health and wellbeing. The forum will include a panel discussion followed by interaction with the audience on important issues on health and wellbeing, including mental Health –current trends, challenges and solutions related to issues of mental health; main challenges to addressing critical shortages of health professionals in Arctic communities; questions on improving access to care; and elements/needs for a good life in the Arctic. 

The framework for this session is the Arctic Human Development Report and a new UArctic initiative to develop a PhD program on Health and Wellbeing.

The purpose of the AHDR-II project – Arctic Human Development Report II: Regional Processes and Global Linkages is to move the study of human development in the Arctic beyond the AHDR (2004) baseline, to provide the second assessment and synthesis report on the state of human development in the Arctic, and to contribute to our increased knowledge and understanding of the consequences and interplay of physical and social global change processes for human living conditions and adaptability in the Arctic, and to strengthen the competence and international leadership role in human dimension scientific assessments and research. Human Health and Wellbeing is one among several themes included in the AHDR-II. The Arctic Social Indicators (ASI) projects (I and II) followed up on the work of first AHDR (2004), and will also help set the context for this forum. ASI has devised a set of indicators that reflect key aspects of human development in the Arctic, that are tractable in terms of measurement, and that can be monitored over time at a reasonable cost in terms of labour and material resources; and the six domains for indicator development are these that have been identified as reflecting key aspects of the most prominent features of human development, including human health and population (but also material wellbeing, education, fate control, closeness to nature, cultural wellbeing). Guided by the AHDR results, the first phase of ASI identified a set of Arctic-specific indicators to monitor Arctic human development and quality of life in the Arctic. ASI-II applied the indicators to five case studies.

The University of the Arctic (UArctic, is a cooperative network of over 150 universities, colleges, and other organizations committed to higher education and research in the North. Its members share resources, facilities, and expertise to build post-secondary education programs that are relevant and accessible to northern students. One of the joint initiatives is to develop a new PhD program on Health and Well-being in the Arctic. The new program will educate experts on Arctic health care focusing also on local needs in Arctic communities. The new program will be developed together with Arctic experts and will drive the knowledge gained from AHDR-II and ASI I and II.