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Energy & Environment

Conference Explores Holistic Approach to Promoting Health of the Arctic and its Peoples

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UAF Center for One Health Research
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The University of Alaska Fairbanks’s Center for One Health Research is partnering with the U.S. State Department in an online international conference on a holistic and collaborative approach to promoting the health of people and wildlife who live in the circumpolar north, as well as the land itself.

The One Health One Future conference that begins today focuses on the so-called One Health approach to understanding and responding to new human health risks that are emerging in the far north, largely as a result of climate change and globalization.

Arleigh Reynolds, who directs UAF’s Center for One Health Research, says those concerns include “food safety and security, water safety, air quality, zoonotic diseases, biocontaminants, (and) mental and behavioral health.”

Reynolds and UAF Chancellor Dan White will open today’s virtual conference, and Reynolds will host many of the discussions over the six-day event.

Reynolds says the One Health approach rejects the notion that human health risks can only be studied by scientists and researchers. Instead, he said in a 2019 interview that One Health encourages participation by many others, like health-care workers and local-government officials – and, especially, the people who live in areas where new health risks are emerging.

And Reynolds says indigenous peoples are an especially important source of local knowledge.

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Credit Zoom screenshot
Tuesday panel discussion participants, top row, from left: Arleigh Reynolds, UAF; Jim Allen, University of Minnesota; Ingelise Olesen, University of Southern Denmark, University of Greenland; middle row: Susan Kutz, University of Calgary; Michael Williams Sr., elder, Akiak, Alaska; bottom row: Christina Viskum Lytken Larson, University of Southern Denmark; Jessica Black, UAF.

“By bringing together people across disciplines and across cultures, all of a sudden we have this very rich depth of knowledge,” he said. “And rather than treat the outcomes, it allows us to start to investigate the sources of these problems, which is where we really make the most headway.”

Reynolds says the One Health approach is essential to understanding the changes under way in the far north and their impact on both humans and the wildlife and domesticated animals they depend on for food.

“It’s going to be the way, I think, that we have to look at the world as we move into the future, if we want to build a sustainable future,” he said. “We can’t continue to look at, and only look at, at parts of things. We’re going to have to start integrating them and looking at them as a whole.”

The State Department expects more than 600 people from around the circumpolar north to participate in the One Health One Future online conference. Today’s opening session will include a panel discussion on the Arctic Council’s six-year effort to promote OneHealth through diplomacy with other organizations and nations that occupy territory in the far north.

Editor's note: More information about the conference is available on the UAF Center for One Health Research’s website.