UNE named first U.S. partner in multinational COVID-19 Project in the Arctic

Holly Parker
Holly Parker, Ph.D., director of UNE NORTH and associate provost for Strategic Initiatives.

The University of New England has been named a partner in the Northern Periphery and the Arctic Programme (NPA) COVID-19 Response CORE Project, a first-of-its-kind collaboration with the intent of collating information learned from thematic projects within the NPA’s newly formed COVID-19 Response Group, of which UNE NORTH: The Institute for North Atlantic Studies is a part.

The COVID-19 CORE Project aims to increase understanding of the effects the novel coronavirus has had on NPA member regions; to support the response group’s thematic projects and to share and analyze data collected during their execution; and, ultimately, to create a report that will inform target groups, stakeholders, and, potentially, future NPA projects and the new NPA programme throughout 2021-2027.

The project explores five themes related to COVID-19 among the nine member-nations of the NPA: clinical aspects, health and well-being, technology solutions, citizen engagement, and economic impacts. 

“At UNE NORTH, we recognize the great demographic, geographic, climatic, and cultural similarities Maine shares with the North Atlantic and Nordic states. COVID-19 is no exception to this regional dynamic,” said Holly Parker, Ph.D., director of UNE NORTH and associate provost for Strategic Initiatives.

Alongside project leaders from the National Health Service Highlands (Scotland) and University of Eastern Finland, Parker will help coordinate the five thematic projects throughout the CORE Project’s duration. She will also help author the CORE final report, which will share key findings from each thematic project, identify emerging themes, and make recommendations for policy and future research.

UNE is also an associate partner on the clinical thematic project, contributing data related to Maine’s COVID-19 public health response in collaboration with the Maine CDC. The project, “COVIDWATCH EU-NPA,” is meant to collect comparative data sets from across the NPA region. As Maine is new to the NPA environment, these initial data sets will help inform areas for potential research collaboration moving forward.

“Since the inception of the NPA COVID-19 response group in March, the NPA programme has championed the necessity to collaborate with a multi-disciplinary approach across the entire programme area,” said Christopher Parker, programme manager at the NPA Secretariat. “To add to the forthcoming success, the NPA COVID-19 response group was introduced to UNE’s Holly Parker and, immediately, synergies and ideas started to flow. We are pleased that UNE has joined us in what is proving to be a brilliant collaboration that now extends along the East Coast of the United States with Maine.”

Work begins on the projects this October, and the full CORE report is anticipated to come this March.

Founded in 2018, UNE NORTH forges innovative, interdisciplinary Maine, North Atlantic, and Arctic partnerships to support healthy environments, thriving economies, and resilient communities. Parker commented that the institute’s mission could not be more relevant than now, during the COVID-19 crisis.

“The coronavirus has no respect for boundaries, borders included. That’s why I think this work with our partners across the North Atlantic is so important,” she said. “We share many of the same challenges, opportunities, and goals, and this project is the first step in what I hope is a longer-term partnership that supports Maine’s and the regions’ communities, economies, and environments through innovation and collaboration.”

Parker said that, as the first U.S. partner to sign onto the NPA’s COVID-19 Response Group, UNE has also emerged as a leader in developing research that will help inform future policy and public health decisions.

“This project is a great opportunity for UNE to leverage its research strengths in the health sciences, particularly public health and in aging, to benefit Maine and the North Atlantic region,” she said. “Ultimately, I think this will help define future research projects that will have an impact not only on the response to COVID-19 but other pressing global health issues as well.”

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