Public health communication about diet in Inuit communities must balance the benefits and risks associated with both country and store-bought food choices and processes to support Inuit well-being. An understanding of how dietary messages—public health communication addressing the health and safety of country and store-bought food—are developed and disseminated in the Arctic is currently lacking. As part of the Country Foods for Good Health study, this participatory research sought to characterize dietary messaging in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region (ISR), Northwest Territories (NWT), from the perspective of territorial, regional and local dietary message disseminators to further improve message communication in the region. We conducted an in-person interview (n=1) (February 2020), telephone interviews (n=13) (May-June 2020), and follow-up telephone interviews (n=5) (June 2021) with key informants about their involvement in developing and/or disseminating dietary messages about the health benefits and risks of country foods and/or store-bought foods in/for the ISR. Key informants interviewed included health professionals (n=5), government employees (n=6) and community nutrition or food program coordinators (n=3) located in Inuvik, Tuktoyaktuk, Paulatuk and Yellowknife, NWT. We conducted a thematic analysis on the 19 interviews. Our findings indicate that publicly disseminated dietary messages in the ISR are developed at all scales and communicated through a variety of methods. Dietary messages focus predominantly on encouraging healthy store-bought food choices and conveying nutritional advice about store-bought and country foods. As federal and territorial messaging is seldom tailored to the ISR, representation of the Inuvialuit food system and consideration of local food realities is generally lacking. There is a need to evaluate dietary messages and improve collaborations among Inuvialuit country food knowledge holders, researchers, and public health dietary message disseminators at all scales to develop more locally tailored and culturally relevant messaging in the ISR. We recommend utilizing a participatory, collaborative, culture-centered approach to dietary message development and dissemination in northern Indigenous contexts.
Northern Indigenous communities require collaborative approaches to health communication about food that are grounded in Indigenous knowledges and cultures; however, preferences and best methods for this process remain understudied. This participatory study discusses how Inuvialuit (Inuit from the Western Arctic) knowledge and the perspectives of territorial, regional, and local dietary message stakeholders can inform the co-development of culture-centered dietary messaging to support healthy, safe, and culturally appropriate diets in Tuktoyaktuk, NWT. A community researcher in Tuktoyaktuk conducted storytelling interviews with country food knowledge holders (n = 7) and community members (n = 3), and a talking circle with local public health dietary message disseminators (n = 2) in June-July 2021. The lead author conducted key informant telephone and videoconference interviews with territorial and regional dietary message disseminators (n = 5) in June 2021. Interviews were coded and analyzed thematically. Our findings indicate that participants at all levels support increased inclusion of cultural and community perspectives about food to develop regionally and locally tailored dietary messaging. While most dietary message stakeholders wish to be involved in co-development processes, some country food knowledge holders in Tuktoyaktuk expressed a desire to lead local communications about country foods. Informed by participants' experiences and needs, we provide recommendations for future community-led approaches to further (co-)develop and communicate effective, culturally meaningful dietary messaging that promotes Inuvialuit food sovereignty.
This paper explores how Canadian federal policy and frameworks can better support community-based initiatives to reduce food insecurity and build sustainable food systems in the North. Through an examination of the current state of food systems infrastructure, transportation, harvest, and production in the Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Nunavik, and Nunatsiavut, we argue in favour of a multi-sector approach that supports diversified food systems, including traditional/country food production and distribution, in a way that values and prioritizes community-led initiatives and Indigenous peoples’ self-determination and self-governance. The challenge of developing sustainable, northern food systems requires made-in-the-North solutions that are attuned to cultural, geographic, environmental, and political contexts. Recent policy developments suggest some progress in this direction, however much more work is needed. Ultimately, sustainable northern food systems must be defined by and for Northerners at community, local, and regional levels, with particular attention paid to treaty rights and the right to self-determination of First Nations and other Indigenous communities.