Jeanne Rokosh, coordinator of prideHealth, says the organization offers what’s called primary healthcare - a holistic way of looking at health - with mental well-being and physical well-being treated together.

“Our focus is the broader kind of health and wellness of people – looking at health promotion, how you can help yourself to be well, doing some education sessions, [etc.],” says Jeanne.

For example, there was a recent patient who was being evicted. The patient did have some hormone monitoring needs, and while the nurse took care of that health aspect, she also helped the patient connect with the right people in terms of housing resources. Jeanne stresses that being evicted plays a role on your health – both mental and physical – and the patient needed it to be addressed in order to be healthy.

“That’s the absolute point,” says Jeanne. “It’s not limited to health or a particular disease or condition. One of the primary notions of healthcare under Health Canada is that people get the right referral at the right time to the right provider.”

She adds it can take years to get the correct referrals, and the nurses at prideHealth are qualified to both give referrals for life issues and give the correct ones. The point is to prevent people looking for help from being lost in the health care system – or not getting into the system at all.

Requested by the community

The annual prideHealth survey consistently showed people wanted a service like this -  89 per cent of people who took the survey supported a community health nurse. The survey also suggested that, of the people in the LGBTI community who don’t have family doctors, a good portion of them haven’t had one for three years or more.

Jeanne says this is a problem because someone may be experiencing homophobia or transphobia. If they feel unwell or become sick, they tend to go to the emergency room instead of a family doctor. When this happens, the immediate illness is treated but the individual does not receive support or help to cope with the discrimination they are experiencing.

“So our goal is to try and get people to enter the system in the beginning, not at the end – when you have a really severe state of health,” says Jeanne.

The virtual team

"Our focus is the broader kind of health and wellness of people."

prideHealth’s healthcare team of nurses is made up of one clinical nursing specialist and two nurses from the IWK Women’s Wellness Clinics. Community organizations can ask the team to make visits at their location. For example, the team visits The AIDS Coalition of Nova Scotia, the Youth Project, Menz Bar  and Stepping Stone.

“The focus of the program is that we go to the community, so there’s no office or place that people go in and get their healthcare,” says Jeanne.

Request a meeting time and place, by phone or online, and the prideHealth nurses will be there.

Pride health and mental health

Anita Keeping, a nurse with prideHealth, says people who have identified themselves as trans-gendered will often deal with a great deal of anxiety and stress. This intrusion on their mental health can stem from both believing that he or she was born into the wrong body, and also from not being accepted by society.

“Either way, they choose to dress into the gender they feel they were supposed to be, they go through hormones and surgery and everything,” says Anita. “There’s still sometimes so much prejudice against them.”

She adds that this often leads to increased risk-taking with some trans-gendered individuals, be it drug usage, turning to alcohol, risky sex, or suicide attempts.

“There’s such a disconnect between who they really believe they are and what they look like on the outside,” says Anita. “There certainly are mental health issues that go along with that – sometimes they don’t have supports or their families disown them. It is a very stressful and anxiety- and depression-producing situation.”

How you can contact prideHealth


Online at www.pride-health.com

 Call Anita Keeping, the project’s community health nurse, at 220-0643.

 Call 240-7065 or email Jeanne Rokosh, prideHealth’s coordinator, at jeanne.rokosh@cdha.nshealth.ca.
 
Other resources

sexualityandu.ca

Provides credible and up-to-date information and education on sexual health.


The AIDS Coalition of Nova Scotia

Their mission: "We exist to empower persons living with and affected by HIV/AIDS and those at risk through health promotion and mutual support, and to reduce the spread of HIV in Nova Scotia."


The Youth Project

Provides support and services to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth, 25 and under, across Nova Scotia. The Project has been running since 1993 and provides a safe, supportive, youth directed environment where youth can access information, peers, support, and social activities.

Egale Canada

Egale Canada is a national organization that advances equality and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans-identified people and their families across Canada.


Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project - NSRAP

NSRAP has been working since 1995 throughout Nova Scotia as a voice for the gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender ("Rainbow") communities.