Nova Scotia

Brotherhood Initiative offers culturally-specific care to African Nova Scotians

The Nova Scotia Health Authority has established a holistic program aimed at breaking down the barriers to healthcare for African Nova Scotian men.

Health-care program in the making for 5 years was adopted from a Chicago model

The Nova Scotia Brotherhood Initiative team hands out gender-specific health education material at its grand opening inside the Black Cultural Centre in Cherrybrook. (Stephanie vanKampen/CBC)

The Nova Scotia Health Authority has established a holistic program aimed at breaking down the barriers to health care for Nova Scotian men of African descent.

The Nova Scotia Brotherhood Initiative holds weekly clinics that allow these patients to see a medical doctor, a social worker, dietician or a nurse.

It was the brainchild of the former advisor to the associate deputy minister of diversity and social inclusion for Nova Scotia, Sharon Davis-Murdoch. 

'Systemic racism'

In 2009, Davis-Murdoch saw a story on CNN about a similar program offered in Chicago. She got the ball rolling to adapt the program for Nova Scotia. 

"I don't think there's a person on the planet happier than I am to see this come to fruition," she said.

"Systemic racism, the issues of poverty, the issues of all kinds of discrimination and inequity are there and they impact health."

Colin Campbell is community liaison for the Nova Scotia Brotherhood Initiative (Stephanie vanKampen/CBC)

Colin Campbell, the community liaison for the program, said lack of access and mistrust of the system have led the African Nova Scotian community to "shy away from the health-care system."

Campbell says many African Nova Scotia men don't feel comfortable seeking health advice because they aren't represented in health-education materials and because it doesn't appear masculine to do so. 

"We have to fight that macho man mentality first," said Campbell. "Then, building that trust."

40 men helped so far

Campbell said they've already started to build that trust.

Though the Nova Scotia Brotherhood Initiative officially kicked off Thursday, it has in fact been in operation since September last year.

During that time, the team has helped at least 40 men. 

The clinic rotates every Wednesday from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. between the communities of North Preston, East Preston, Dartmouth North and Hammonds Plains.

$180K a year

The team of health professionals is also available for appointments with clients outside of clinic hours. 

The program provides health-education brochures with information specifically about diseases prevalent in the African Nova Scotia community. 

Campbell said he hopes to eventually be able to collect data and statistics about the health of the community.

The initiative will cost the province $180,000 every year.