Dudes Club: A model for men's healthcare from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside
Located in a newly-built drop-in centre in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, the DUDES Club provides a meeting place for men to connect with each other, their communities, and the healthcare system. It's led by local men. DUDES is an acronym for Downtown Urban Knights Defending Equality and Solidarity.
Research shows that the club is making a real difference in its members' lives, in a neighbourhood in which the average male lifespan is 15 years less than the average Canadian.
The members, two-thirds of whom are Indigenous, say that the club has helped them deal with their health issues as well as their challenges of loneliness, addiction, cultural isolation, and abuse. The club motto is simple: Leave your armour at the door.
Richard Teague, in recovery from drug addiction, says, "I think what the DUDES Club has done for me is make me more aware of how important self-care is, going to see your doctor, taking your medication, eating good food. Without your health you have nothing."
Robert Chippeway is a 54-year old Indigenous man originally from Manitoba. He's HIV positive, and in recovery from drug addiction. He joined the DUDES Club in 2010 and is currently one of its leaders.
Ludvik Skalicky, a sometime actor and self-described advocate for the poor, has struggled with health issues for years. He credits the DUDES Club with helping him to monitor his health.
Skalicky initially dropped in for the free meals, but the camaraderie and sense of belonging kept him coming back.
"When you have no family, they become your family. Truthfully without the DUDES Club, I would probably be dead," he said.
The DUDES Club was created in 2010 by Dr. Paul Gross, a family physician. He noticed that there were dedicated health outreach programs for women and children, but nothing specifically for men.
Dr. Gross says the DUDES Club shows that with the proper peer support, men can take better care of their mental and physical health no matter where they live. Gross conducted a survey of men at the club, and those who attended regularly rated their emotional, physical and mental health more highly than those who were less frequent visitors.