Dettah and N'dilo, Northwest Territories
Year(s) Funded: 2015-2016
Topic Area: Adaptation Planning
Contact: Craig Scott, Ecology North (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Partners: Ecology North, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE)
Title: Summer of Smoke - Health Impacts of a Record Forest Fire Year
Action:The Summer of 2014 was by most accounts the smokiest summer in living memory in the Northwest Territories. The Summer of Smoke project was a mixed-methods study that looked at both the impacts on the NWT health system, while at the same time listening to people’s stories of how the smoke impacted their lives. The project focused on four communities Yellowknife, Kakisa, and N’dilo and Dettah.
The project team interviewed NWT residents on film asking them how they were impacted by the smoke, the interviews showed the breadth of impacts on everyone’s lives throughout the summer. The medical team focused on data collection to uncover how the medical system was impacted. As the smoke increased through the summer, doctors reported full emergency waiting rooms as people with breathing problems came in looking for relief from cough’s, asthma and more serious respiratory problems. The doctors on the team looked at data from emergency room visits, health records and pharmacy sales looking for a noticeable change from previous less smoky years.
Results: It was discovered that people with pre-existing health problems like asthma had increased symptoms. Other vulnerable populations include infants, pregnant mothers, and the elderly who generally suffered more episodes of asthma, cough and pneumonia, and related visits to the ER. There were statistically relevant increases in some medical conditions in the NWT. People suffered from persistent cough, sore eyes, but also increased anxiety, stress, fear, and feelings of isolation during the summer of smoke. The qualitative portion of this project portrayed the human cost and impacts on the people of the NWT during the persistent smoke of 2014.
Outputs: The project team developed four videos based on the videos from the project, held community meetings in each of the partner communities, and developed a policy recommendation paper and brochure about the impacts of smoke on people and the health system.
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