SOS-Summer of Smoke: A mixed-methods research examination of the health effects of a record wildfire season in Canada's Northwest Territories.

Regions: North Slave Region, South Slave Region

Tags: health, social sciences, wildfire

Principal Investigator: Howard, Courtney G (2)
Licence Number: 15801
Organization: Canadian Association of Physicians of the Environment
Licensed Year(s): 2016 2015
Issued: Dec 15, 2015
Project Team: Warren Dodd (PhD Candidate: Quantitative and qualitative researcher, Guelph University)

Objective(s): To better understand the effects of the "summer of smoke" (summer 2014) on health in a changing northern climate.

Project Description: The overall objective for this research is to better understand people's experiences of the "summer of Smoke" in the North Slave region. This project will use digital storytelling methods to understand people's experiences during the summer of 2014 and data about respiratory health collected from health clinics, the ER, and pharmacies over the same time period. This community-based, participatory research will combine both qualitative and quantitative components.

Health data from medical charts will be collected on individuals in the Yellowknife and N'Dilo areas from 2011 to 2014. Data from 2011-2013 will help researchers to understand information about the health of people prior to the smoke (baseline data). Strict confidentiality will be maintained and all the information will be anonymous. Researchers will look for and record information about impacts of smoke on people's health including, but are not limited to: asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, wheeze, cough, reactive airway disease, conjunctivitis. They will also collect information on emergency visits and the reason for the visits. Finally, they will survey pharmacies and collect distribution information on certain medications that help with breathing (e.g. puffers/inhalers). All of this information will be compared using statistical models and the air quality data available in the region at that time.

The project will also work with twenty to twenty-four participants to create 3 to 5 minute autobiographical videos of their own experiences of the Summer of Smoke. The hope is to survey a range of participants with diverse backgrounds including: elders, firefighters, youths and individuals with mobility challenges divided roughly equally between the four communities: the two Dettah, N'dilo, Kakisa, and the larger Yellowknife community. The videos will focus on any mental and/or emotional stress that they might have experienced, as well as detail concrete effects that the fires had on life for them and their family. Patrick Scott and community coordinators from the Yellowknive's Dene and the community of Kakisa will facilitate the video process. Community coordinators will receive training in the digital storytelling method. People will be recruited into the study through community meetings and through recommendations from the community coordinator and community council members. The individual videos created by the participants will be shown at a community gathering which will allow the entire community a chance to gather and debrief about the fire. Participants will have the option of declining public showing at any time during the process. Follow-up interviews will take place between the researcher and participant to explore their experience further. These interviews will be digitally recorded with consent, with the option of the interview being held in the presence of a translator and/or in a local place of the interviewee's choice (e.g. on the land}. These interviews will be transcribed by a professional transcription company and checked for accuracy by the health researcher.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from January 1, 2016 to December 31, 2016.