Engaging with mining impacts on Indigenous community health: Allegiance challenges in public health research and practice

Regions: Inuvialuit Settlement Region, Gwich'in Settlement Area, Sahtu Settlement Area, Dehcho Region, North Slave Region, South Slave Region

Tags: health, social sciences, public health

Principal Investigator: Spiegel, Jerry (1)
Licence Number: 16487
Organization: University of British Columbia
Licensed Year(s): 2019
Issued: Feb 04, 2019
Project Team: Bjorn Stime (Researcher, interviewer, University of British Columbia), Dr. Jerry Spiegel (Principal Investigator, supervisor, University of British Columbia)

Objective(s): To inform the public health profession of complexities, paradoxes and implications of the different ways in which professionals might engage when the work relates to how mining practices affect Indigenous communities.

Project Description: The purpose of this study is to inform the public health profession of complexities, paradoxes and implications of the different ways in which professionals might engage when the work relates to how mining practices affect Indigenous communities, with an intention of expanding the possibilities. The principal investigator (PI) asks the overarching question: How are public health professionals engaging with competing narratives of health impacts of mining in Indigenous communities in Canada? By examining experienced, perceived and potential conflicts, this graduate dissertation study aims to enhance public health training on relevant complexities, paradoxes and implications.

The design of this study includes an overall methodology of a Social Cartography which will make use of two primary procedures as methods: scoping review and qualitative analysis of in-depth interviews.

Qualitative Analysis of In-depth interviews will involve recruiting and interviewing a variety of public health professionals regarding perspectives on their roles related to the health of Indigenous communities, particularly as it relates to mining impacts. Emerging themes will be identified through analysis of in-depth interviews that will take place between September 2018 and April 2019. The interview of one NWT-based participant will take place in 2019. Interview participants are being recruited purposively through health networks to include a breadth of perspectives from professionals with a range of roles and fiduciary responsibilities in public health.

An interview guide script will be employed for the in-depth interviews which, in the case of the NWT-based participant, will be carried out by telephone or Skype, since in-person interviewing is not practicable. The participants will be asked to dedicate 1 to 1.5 hours for the interview.

All interviews will be recorded digitally with an audio recorder and will be transcribed by the principal investigator with the help of NVivo 11 software. All data will be kept confidential and stored securely in an encrypted and password-protected folder on the PI’s personal password-protected laptop which is kept in a locked home office. In any resulting communications and publications the views expressed in the interviews will be kept anonymous. The PI will conduct 20-40 interviews, or until saturation is reached.

Participants must be over the age of 18 and be trained or practicing as health professionals anywhere in Canada. The study will include a balance of men and women overall, employing a quota for men and women of one half (or 20) of the intended number of interviews to be conducted.

The study will include public health professionals with a wide range of roles and fiduciary and professional responsibilities: publicly employed physicians and nurses, publicly funded academic researchers and health-trained state employees with key roles in extraction project assessment processes. The study intentionally seeks specifically Canadian-based public health technician’s researchers, nurses, and physicians whose work has a major focus on addressing mining impacts in Indigenous communities.

The co-Investigator will approach, inform, and obtain consent from potential participants. The co-Investigator is a Canadian researcher with no existing relationship with the potential participant. Potential participants who have responded positively to the letter of initial contact will be mailed or emailed an informed consent form to read prior to making their decision. The participant will be provided with an opportunity to ask questions before making a decision whether or not to give their consent.

This study is a UBC graduate student's doctoral research project. Currently, there are no further researchers or assistants involved in the study. The aim of the study is to improve the training of future public health professionals in ways that better equip them to navigate the complex and often conflicting narratives being brought forward regarding how resource extraction projects like mining affect the well-being of Indigenous communities. The hope is that public health professionals can be better attuned to community voices, examine the roles as publicly funded officials in relation to communities that may not agree, and identify strategies that would support the voices of local perspectives on the social, cultural, educational and economic benefits to the region, rather than facilitating the imposition of external perspectives. The hope is that this study will foster the kind of dialogue in the public health field that would lead to respecting and deferring to local voices and perspectives on health and well-being.

The NWT-based participant will be sent the final results of this study when it is completed, to share with others in the region if deemed relevant. Recognizing that academic dissertations are rarely read by anyone - despite being posted publicly on the university website when completed - the aim is to try to publish more accessible articulations of the key findings, such that lay people in NWT and everywhere can benefit from awareness of the study findings simply by reading a newspaper or magazine article.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from February 4, 2019 to April 30, 2019.