Analysis & Opinions - ArcticToday

The Arctic Needs Better Cross-sector Crisis-related Collaboration

| Aug. 06, 2020

Acting now will help mitigate the effects of the next pandemic or other disaster.


This piece is one of a series of op-eds written by the student-scholars of the Arctic Innovators Program at the Harvard Kennedy School's Arctic Initiative.

The coronavirus pandemic has shown that the Arctic Council must hasten its efforts to coordinate different elements of emergency preparedness responses to crises affecting human health and wellbeing. Unfortunately, COVID-19 is likely to be one of the first — rather than the last — persistent, widespread viruses to plague Arctic communities. As permafrost thaws because of global warming, viruses and bacteria that have lain dormant in soils for centuries could come back to life. Many of these viruses likely will be dangerous for humans and animals and do not have readily available vaccines for treatment. The burgeoning tourism industry will further exacerbate the risk of introducing and spreading diseases in the Arctic region.

Luckily, the Arctic already has a head start down a path of collaboration on health crises with the One Health initiative. One Health, which was launched in 2013 out of the Arctic Council's Sustainable Development Working Group, is a laudatory effort to bring a cross-disciplinary approach to health and wellness across the Arctic region by holding knowledge-sharing events and mock exercises to bring together health and science professionals specializing in the circumpolar North.

And yet, despite this early start on crisis-related cooperation, the severity of the coronavirus pandemic demonstrates that One Health's work, in isolation, is not enough. One of the major challenges for the Arctic has been syncing up different kinds of emergency preparedness professionals. As Michael Brubaker, from the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, told me: "this [collaboration] has not happened enough." Arctic Council working groups tend to operate in siloes, making it challenging to bring together people from different professional backgrounds into even the same room....

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Stark , Jenna.“The Arctic Needs Better Cross-sector Crisis-related Collaboration.” ArcticToday, August 6, 2020.

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