Circumpolar stakeholder perspectives on Geographic Information Systems for communicating the health impacts of development

Jennifer Ann McGetrick, Tania Bubela, David S. Hik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Natural resource development is accelerating in the circumpolar region, raising questions about the balance between potential economic benefits for northern indigenous peoples with the risks of increasing long-standing health inequities. New communication tools are needed to document and synthesize complex and diverse evidence of health impacts in a context relevant for natural resource management. Our research examines the perspectives of circumpolar experts on Geographic Information Systems (GIS) as a platform to synthesize and communicate scientific and indigenous knowledge. Thirty policy makers, academic researchers, and community-level practitioners participated in semi-structured interviews examining indigenous community health, natural resource management, and the use of GIS within Arctic and subarctic communities. Qualitative analysis of the interview transcripts for key themes indicated that the majority of circumpolar experts supported employing GIS to facilitate more extensive collaboration with indigenous communities and to produce higher quality data outputs for decision-making forums. To ensure GIS enables natural resource development decision-making to improve the social and economic welfare of indigenous people, experts recommended increasing communities' access to technology and training, community stewardship of data, utilizing data for ongoing monitoring of development impacts, and coordinating cumulative impact monitoring within regions. Findings focus on circumpolar natural resource management in jurisdictions with a mandate for public participation, with relevance to improving accountability to indigenous populations in other regions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)176-184
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Science and Policy
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Circumpolar region
  • Geographic Information Systems
  • Health impact assessment
  • Indigenous peoples
  • Public health
  • Sustainable development


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