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Individual and Community well-being
by Larrissa Ribova
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Major trends in Northern community well-being
  "It is fairly easy to demonstrate the ill fate of many peripheral localities in the Northern area" (Aarsaether & Baerenholdt, 1998). Indeed, even a brief look at health status of inhabitants, unemployment rate, suicides, and the crime rate, of many northern communities, can make one consider overall well-being of northern peripheral communities, as lower in comparison to the more central regions of the countries those communities belong to. Differences are also observed between the well-being of urban and rural northern communities, and in the well-being of indigenous and non-indigenous communities. There also can be found, both ethnic and occupational differences in the well-being of the residents in the same community, or between various social groups within a community.

Numerous studies alarmingly report:

"The health status of American Indians and Alaska Natives is not equal to the U.S. general population. Poor nutrition, coupled with unsafe water supplies and inadequate waste disposal facilities, has resulted in a greater incidence of illness in the Indian population" (Department of Health and Human Services, report Health People 2000).

"Unemployment rate in the communities of Lapland (Northern Finland) in the mid 90s was about 25 per cent whereas the average employment rate in Finland was about 17 per cent" (Suopajarvi, 1998).

"Illness rate among children in the towns of Murmansk region (North-Western Russia) in 1997-1998 was 42% higher than Russian average" (Report from Murmansk Regional Committee on Environment Protection, 1998).

Young people living in small fishing villages of the North Atlantic tell:

Village of Isafiordur, Iceland: "The main occupation here is the fish industry, but it has been in a difficult position the last few years. The quota has been sold away, factories have been closed down and people have lost their work."

Village of Chisasibi, Canada: "I like living in this community because it's fun. But there's just one thing, and that's alcohol and drugs. I don't like those things. And we don't have any privacy at night. Because those who are drunk always knock on everybody's doors".

Village of Teriberka, Russia: "Today almost all the enterprises are stopped and this leads to increase in unemployment. The young generation has nothing to do in their spare time. Because of boredom, some drink, some smoke or sniff" (Northern Future - Young Voices. UNESCO MOST CCPP, Project Report, 2000).

  Despite certain common traits like high unemployment and increased numbers of: persons in poverty, individuals with low education, children in households receiving public assistance income, and persons with low health status, the patterns differ throughout the North.
  It is fair to say that living standards are especially low in the Russian North. For example, in the Murmansk region, (one of the most industrialized, urbanized and relatively well-off regions of the Russian North), according to official statistics, 21 percent of the population had incomes below the national subsistence minimum (poverty line) in 1997. Local research (see Riabova, 1998; Granberg & Riabova, 1998) has given even higher values doubling this figure by taking the regional consumption basket and unfavorable regional price changes into consideration (Granberg & Riabova, 1998). Research on the food situation in the Murmansk region has shown that diurnal caloric values of nutrition fell from 2445 k/cal in 1990 to 2060 k/cal in 1995, (which is much below the official estimates of daily need). Consumption of milk, eggs and fish products fell by about one half from 1988 to 1996. Only the consumption of bread, potato and vegetable oil remained stable (Granberg, Maretskiy and Riabova, 2000).
  In a recent book on the Russian North by P. Zaidfudim and Y. Mizun, poor nutrition and unhealthy diet was indicated as one of the main reasons for the deterioration of health status and decreased life expectancy for the residents of the Russian North during the last decade (Zaidfudim & Mizun, 1998). In the Murmansk region, the average life expectancy was 70.3 years in 1990. In four years it has fallen to 63.1 years, which puts it below the 1994 Russian average of 64.0 years. After the year of 1994 the situation improved slightly, but this indicator in the Murmansk region remains below the Russian average. The same applies to other Russian Territories of the Barents Region (Economic Geography and Structure of the Russian Territories of the Barents Region, 1999.
  A significant difference in the patterns of disease is observed in different parts of the Barents region. For men, cancer of the stomach is most widespread in the Russian regions, whereas cancer of the bladder and prostate are most widespread in the Norwegian and Finnish regions. Cancer of the respiratory organs and mouth is most prevalent in the Murmansk and Archangelsk regions, and is also high for the Finnish region. For women, breast cancer is most frequent in the Swedish region, and stomach cancer is prevalent in the Russian territories of the Barents region.
  Very marked differences are observed between the regions belonging to the Nordic countries and the Russian ones, regarding tuberculosis. While diagnosed cases of tuberculosis make 2.6 cases per 100 000 inhabitants in the Norwegian Barents region, in the Republic of Karelia, it makes 71.4 cases, 56.6 cases in the Arkhangelsk region and 33.0 cases in the Murmansk region (Health Statistic Indicators for the Barents Euro-Arctic Region, 1998). For the Russian North, a dramatic increase in infectious diseases like tuberculosis and diphtheria (and other diseases that were extinguished some years ago), is one of the trends of the last ten years.
  According to regional statistics, in the settlements of the Murmansk region, the diseases of the respiratory system occupy first place on the list of the most widespread illnesses, the diseases of the nervous system occupy second place and the blood and blood-forming organ diseases, occupy third place (Murmansk Regional Committee on Environment Protection, 1998).

In the Russian North, illness rates for tuberculosis, hepatitis, respiratory infections and alcoholism are 1.5-2 times higher among the indigenous population than among the non-indigenous population (Zaidfudim & Mizun, 1998). Alcohol is one of the major problems for indigenous populations, (be it American Indians, Alaska Natives, Kola Sami or indigenous people of Siberia). Alcohol contributes to high rates of motor vehicle crashes, cirrhosis, suicide, homicide and domestic abuse. For example, in Lovozero district of the Murmansk region, (where Kola Sami reside) about 90% of Sami teenagers (under 16 years old) use alcohol, and every 9th Kola Sami youngster is addicted to alcohol (Zaidfudim & Mizun, 1998). Alcohol problems are typical for the population of the remote rural settlements in the region. This problem is especially acute in the places of compact residence. The percentage of the indigenous population living in places of compact residence is 7.9%. However, 16.6 % of the total number of individuals diagnosed with "alcoholism", are indigenous people living in places of compact residence (Murmansk Regional Committee of State Statistics, 1999).

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Individual and Community well-being, by Larrissa Ribova.
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