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The Arctic Human Health Initiative: a legacy of the International Polar Year 2007–2009
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    Background

    The International Polar Year (IPY) 2007–2008 represented a unique opportunity to further stimulate cooperation and coordination on Arctic health research and increase the awareness and visibility of Arctic regions. The Arctic Human Health Initiative (AHHI) was a US-led Arctic Council IPY coordinating project that aimed to build and expand on existing International Union for Circumpolar Health (IUCH) and Arctic Council human health interests. The project aimed to link researchers with potential international collaborators and to serve as a focal point for human health research, education, outreach and communication activities during the IPY. The progress of projects conducted as part of this initiative up until the end of the Arctic Council Swedish chairmanship in May 2013 is summarized in this report.

    Design

    The overall goals of the AHHI was to increase awareness and visibility of human health concerns of Arctic peoples, foster human health research, and promote health strategies that will improve health and well-being of all Arctic residents. Proposed activities to be recognized through the initiative included: expanding research networks that will enhance surveillance and monitoring of health issues of concern to Arctic peoples, and increase collaboration and coordination of human health research; fostering research that will examine the health impact of anthropogenic pollution, rapid modernization and economic development, climate variability, infectious and chronic diseases, intentional and unintentional injuries, promoting education, outreach and communication that will focus public and political attention on Arctic health issues, using a variety of publications, printed and electronic reports from scientific conferences, symposia and workshops targeting researchers, students, communities and policy makers; promoting the translation of research into health policy and community action including implementation of prevention strategies and health promotion; and promoting synergy and strategic direction of Arctic human health research and health promotion.

    Results

    As of 31 March, 2009, the official end of the IPY, AHHI represented a total of 38 proposals, including 21 individual Expressions of Intent (EoI), and 9 full proposals (FP), submitted to the IPY Joint Committee for review and approval from lead investigators from the US, Canada, Greenland, Norway, Finland, Sweden and the Russian Federation. In addition, there were 10 National Initiatives (NI-projects undertaken during IPY beyond the IPY Joint Committee review process). Individual project details can be viewed at www.arctichealth.org. The AHHI currently monitors the progress of 28 individual active human health projects in the following thematic areas: health network expansion (5 projects), infectious disease research (7 projects), environmental health research (7 projects), behavioral and mental health research (4 projects), and outreach education and communication (5 projects).

    Conclusions

    While some projects have been completed, others will continue well beyond the IPY. The IPY 2007–2008 represented a unique opportunity to further stimulate cooperation and coordination on Arctic health research and increase the awareness and visibility of Arctic regions.