The seven health units in Northern Ontario are joining forces to study the impact climate change is having on Northerners and how they can adapt to a changing climate.

The federal government has provided the health units, including the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit, with the funds to study the effects and impact for the next two years and to come back with recommendations.

Shannon Mantha, the Executive Director Community Services of the NBPSDHU says the health unit in Northwestern Ontario initiated the study.

Mantha says until the study was announced, there has not been a comprehensive study the impact climate change has on Northerners.

Mantha says the study may be the most comprehensive project the seven health units have collaborated on to date.

Mantha says the study will identify and describe the health issues that are especially relevant for Northerners because of climate change.

Once that part of the study is done, the hope is the study will have recommendations that the local communities can benefit from.

Mantha says the North is more susceptible to climate change.

“We’re warming faster than the global and provincial average,” said.

“Also in Northern Ontario, our health status is generally worse than our Southern Ontario counterparts.  This is due to having higher rates of smoking, alcohol use and obesity.”

Mantha says climate change doesn’t affect everyone the same way.

She says it disproportionally impacts the health of “low-income communities, Indigenous communities and communities of colour”.

Mantha says the health issues the study is expected to reveal are things like increased heart and lung problems related to the temperature and air pollution.

Other impacts expected are a rise in Lyme disease and West Nile Virus as well as a rise in food-borne and water-borne diseases.

The health units will accumulate their findings by talking to stakeholders.

This will include speaking to the general public, Indigenous communities, municipalities and also offices like the Ministry of the Environment and community groups that have a vested interest in the report.

Mantha says the report won’t be able to state with certainty the impacts of climate change.

But Mantha notes with climate change there comes a “frequency and severity of extreme weather events which we’ll be able to say have an impact on health”.

The final report with its preventative measure recommendations will be given to the federal government for action on the issue.

Mantha says it will also be shared with the general public and, Indigenous people and communities.