This month’s edition of Global Health Rounds took place on February 10th, 2016 in the Sir Charles Tupper Medical Building. Global Health Rounds is a free public lecture series, focused on highlighting and discussing the global health activities at Dalhousie, as well as contemporary global health challenges, with leaders in the field. These sessions are offered monthly and anyone is welcome (and encouraged) to attend. Speaker and location details will be posted on the Global Health Office Website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
February Rounds, led by several members of the Nova Scotia Brotherhood Initiative (NSBI), focused on the health and wellness of African Nova Scotian (AFNS) men. NSBI is based on the Project Brotherhood model that began in Chicago. This model aims to create a safe space for Black men to seek health services.
Dr. Ron Milne began the presentation by justifying why the NSBI targets African Nova Scotian men. Men (in general) are less likely to pay attention to their health, perhaps due to striving to align with norms around masculinity. Men are also more reluctant to seek care, and tend to ask less questions than women when they do seek care. Though there is a dearth of data related to African Nova Scotian men, data on the health of men of African descent in the United States provides a glimpse of the challenges faced by this group. The following are only some of the health statistics cited in Dr. Milne’s presentation:
– Men of African descent have higher rates of colorectal cancer, and are 32% more likely to die from colorectal cancer than the general population.
– Compared to the general population, men of African descent have a 1.5 times greater risk of developing diabetes.
– Men of African descent are 60% more likely to develop prostate cancer, and 2.5 times more likely to die from the disease than the general population.
– Compared to adult Caucasians, men of African descent are 20% more likely to experience stress and mental health problems.
Dr. Milne noted that, in part, these statistics could be explained by genetics. However, we must also address a key issue this group is faced with on a daily basis: we have not created a safe and accessible environment for this group to receive the healthcare they require. This is due to a number of factors, including a cultural memory of abuse and lack of trust, systemic oppression, non-culturally specific health practices and a lack of AFNS health providers. Similar issues are faced by other marginalized communities, including pride and Indigenous groups. These problems are not going to be fixed overnight, but the NSBI has been working since 2009 to build relationships in target communities through trusted community groups (churches, etc.).
The NSBI came under the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) in 2014, and covers those living in the NSHA Central Zone (Halifax area). The NSBI does not strive to become a primary health home for its clients. Through this initiative, a team of health professionals provide culturally appropriate and gender specific primary medical care, while facilitating access to further care. The NSBI clinical team includes a family physician, a registered nurse, a dietitian, a community liaison, administrative support and a social worker. Most of these positions are staffed part-time. NSBI also has two community volunteer groups. One of these is the Men’s Health League, a volunteer peer-to-peer support and action group for AFNS men. The other is the Health Champions group, who are spread geographically across the Central Zone, and serve to provide advice and direction to NSBI throughout its evaluation process.
As its work progresses, the NSBI hopes to improve health outcomes, increase participation of target communities in their well-being and increase cultural competency in primary health care. Over the past year, the NSBI has taken part in health fairs across the province, attended community events, created health information pamphlets and established the Health Champions group. In the coming year, they aim to continue this work, while building community partnerships and evaluating their model. They will continue to “be the bridge for the AFNS community to the greater Nova Scotia healthcare system.”
We would like to thank members of the NSBI for leading Feburary’s engaging Global Health Rounds session. We hope to see you all at our March session!