We have assembled a team of transdisciplinary scholars, government and NGO representatives, and Indigenous community members, with expertise in medical, veterinary, environmental science, climatology, public health, and social sciences. Our transdisciplinary approach will be critical to understanding the multifaceted nature and unique context of food systems, security, and safety in the 3 regions. The team has collaboratively prepared this proposal over the last year, including holding workshops and meetings in Uganda, Peru, the Arctic, Montreal, and Oxford. Moving forward, the team will expand to increase additional intersectoral expertise.
A ‘vulnerability approach’ will structure our data collection, guide the evaluation of adaptation strategies, and structure interdisciplinary integration. This approach is consistent with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and methods proposed by Health Canada, WHO, UNDP, & UNEP.The approach has been developed and implemented in all 3 regions by our team, and is consistent with concepts in resilience, sustainability science, and EcoHealth. We view vulnerability as a function of exposure and sensitivity to climate change and adaptive capacity.
Exposure refers to the nature of the climate-related health outcome.
Sensitivity concerns the structure of food systems relative to health outcomes and determines the pathways through which exposure will manifest.
Adaptive capacity reflects the ability of food systems to address, plan for, or adapt to adverse climate-related health outcomes and take advantage of new opportunities.
Historically, scientists have conducted research on Indigenous peoples, often failing to return research results. This practice, while less frequent, still persists, and has resulted in scepticism about research in many communities. Our team embraces a participatory, community-based research approach, conducting research with, for, and led by community members as full partners throughout the research process, respecting social norms and decision processes, and building upon a workshop held by the team to advance Indigenous participatory research methods and de-colonizing approaches. Moreover, the relationships between individuals and the environment are not gender-neutral; as such, collecting and analyzing our data using the lens of both sex and gender are key to our research program and will be reflected in our participatory approaches.
Region and Site Selection
We have partnered with communities and Indigenous groups in 3 regions: Canadian Inuit, Ugandan Batwa, and Peruvian Shawi. These regions were selected because they are reflective of the diverse culture and livelihoods of remote Indigenous populations globally, including a high, medium, and low income region. Further, they capture diverse biophysical environments, facilitating the development of broad insights on Indigenous vulnerability and adaptation.
The selected regions also share similarities, including population size, socio-economic-health inequality, remoteness, dependence on the biophysical environment, nutritional transitions, and concerns over the erosion of IK.
The contrast and similarity of these study sites underpins the aim of this project to assess both the generalizability and the context-dependence of health vulnerability.
A descriptive comparative research design underpin the development of novel robust methodologies to estimate future distribution, magnitude, frequency, and determinants of climate change impacts on health, and reveal systemic or underlying factors shaping agri-food vulnerability in Indigenous populations. Consistency in core community-based, participatory vulnerability concepts and approaches will allow for comparison across regions, including understanding future pathways of agri-food vulnerability, participatory strategies and their effectiveness, conditions and policies which facilitate or constrain food system adaptation, and policy opportunities for facilitating adaptation.
Integrated Knowledge Translation
The team values knowledge translation activities, which is evidenced by the co-production of knowledge through IHACC and KT articles authored by team members. An overarching goal of the program is to directly contribute to decision-making processes around adaptation across scales. Three attributes underpin the program’s aim to co-produce ‘usable science’:
Research must be pertinent and investigate factors under the influence of knowledge users, focus on temporal and geographical scales over which knowledge users have impact, and ensure users are engaged in culturally- and methodologically-appropriate ways.
Research must integrate quality considerations, ensuring the research is trusted and valued by users, increasing the likelihood of community uptake. Scientific rigor, centrality of cultural values, and engagement of Elders and local leaders, underpin the program.
Research must produce timely information. Engagement of knowledge users throughout the program, regular updates (e.g. progress briefs, information nights), and targeted program activities (e.g. policy briefs, workshops) are designed to ensure timely contributions.
The program leverages well-established relationships with communities and knowledge users. Experience working in study regions provides the team with an appreciation of the challenges of working in remote Indigenous contexts. Team expertise spanning multiple disciplines and sectors underpins our familiarity with the emerging scholarship on intersectoral health research. A diversity of partner organizations contributed to program development, ensuring goals and deliverables are feasible. A key role for emerging scholars creates vigour for intellectually challenging research within a management structure that leverages experienced senior researchers as mentors. Matching funds provides additional resources to undertake a program of this magnitude.