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North End Community Health Centre 

Non-judgmental health care

click to enlarge ANGELA GZOWSKI

2165 Gottingen Street, 420-0303

nechc.com

How to give: Through the CanadaHelps link on its website or by contacting the Gottingen Street office.

When people visit the North End Community Health Centre, "they don't get somebody pointing a finger and wagging it at them," and "telling them what they should be doing," says executive director Jane Maloney. Rather, the centre serves Halifax's north end, and embraces a "harm reduction" approach to health care. "We work with people where they're at. We don't lecture them," explains Maloney.

"I'm not interested in those kind of health messages that try to blame people for being poor and sick," she says. "I don't believe that people can make choices if they don't have options."

Community members can expect to receive "really holistic comprehensive primary health care are from us," says Maloney. Many of those the Centre serves are from low-income homes and "may not have finished school," she explains. "They might have history of abuse, drug abuse, mental health issues and family violence."

The Centre attempts to nip the causes of bad health in the bud, rather than simply treating people when they're already unhealthy. Maloney says diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes are "disproportionately high" amongst those from lower socio-economic backgrounds. To combat chronic diseases, the Centre runs a north end walking group with a triple function: The group connects people to their neighbourhood and to one another; participants get the physical activity they need to stay healthy. And after the walk is over, everyone learns about healthier eating by enjoying a meal together.

"We don't get funding for these community-based nutrition programs, and that's where we really believe we're going to make a difference in the future health of this population," says Maloney. She says the program's participants have seen huge improvements in their health, as they're able to reduce their insulin levels, lose weight and better maintain their blood sugar levels. Moloney explains that it costs about $7,000 a year to run the nutrition programs, and they're only meeting about a third of the need.

People can donate money to the North End Walkers program (you can specify this donation preference when you donate online), which is raising funds for pedometers, new t-shirts and a Christmas dinner. The centre's pre-natal program is also in need of funding. "We assist women who are on low incomes and who are struggling to buy milk, by handing out milk tickets to them during the course of their pregnancy," explains Maloney.

Maloney also encourages those with strong public relations/communication skills and those who are web-savvy to consider jumping on board as long-term volunteers. And foodies can volunteer to help the Centre's nutritionist prepare meals, or sell vegetables with local kids at the Centre's Hope Blooms community garden.

There's a long list of additional services the Centre provides, ranging from health services to refugees to mental health support. All serve to improve the over all health of those living in the north end.

"People feel that we're part of their community---we're part of their lives," says Maloney. "They feel that we get them, that we really understand them."

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Vol 24, No 27
December 1, 2016

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