Program History

The Men’s Health Initiative began in 2008 as Engaging Physicians Project looking at how men who have sex with men (MSM) were accessing health care and testing behaviors around safer sex. MSM men were reporting a sense of isolation, stigma, distrust of the health care system resulting in them feeling they were not getting their needs met.

Between August 2010 and January 2011, MSM Health Survey was conducted. Participants completed the confidential online survey hosted by Infopoll.com. Results were published in AIDS Care Journal April of 2016. In 2011, Engaging Physicians Project: A Health Education & Awareness Project created through the Living Positive Resource Centre (LPRC) published “Communicating with male patients who have sex with males & who live in non-urban areas’ brochure and ‘Communicating with your doctor about sex between men’ brochure. In 2012, the project switched to the Men’s Health Initiative.

Between 2013 and 2016, MHI focused its attention on attending Pride events, organizing opportunities for MSM to get together to receive health related information such as workshops, movie nights, and an annual retreat.

In 2015, MHI conducted a needs assessment via an online survey to asses the needs of gay, bi and other MSM in the Interior region of BC. In September of that year, Dr. Matthew Burnett began providing counseling services for MHI Kelowna. In 2016, MHI publishes/releases "MHI Needs Assessment Findings" document with Catalyst Consulting.

In May 2017, a SWOT analysis was conducted through Survey Monkey to those currently involved, or involved within the past year to analyze the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats as perceived through these individuals.

SWOT Analysis (2017)

Questions pertaining to the SWOT Analysis are as follows:

1. What do you think are the MHI's strengths? What is working well?

2. What do you think are MHI's weaknesses? What isn't working or needs to be changed?

3. What opportunities do you feel are available to MHI? If there are resources or partnerships, please be specific.

4. What threats do you feel MHI is facing? Internal/External. 

5. Is there any other feedback you feel you would like to share that does not fit into any of the above questions?

Below are some answers from the individuals who responded to the Survey:

1."STI testing for MSM, MHI is providing opportunities - good visibility in social media- facebook"

"I really like the thorough STI testing that happens every month especially finding out the result right then and there without the judgmental looks from the nurses :) The information sessions offered are very good and I wish more people would go to them. Everyone should be educated on this subject"

"Working with men who like men and seeing what their needs are and trying to make our lives better through education programs and men’s health"

2. "We need to ensure that the program is sustainable and supported by long-term funding. We need to look at the real needs of the program and strategies to improve health outcomes for MSM and find funding support that meets these needs. It is a fine line sometimes between the funder-driven priorities and the actual priorities of the population. We need to support the MHI coordinator since this work can feel isolating and he is the only coordinator outside of Hope doing this work in the province. The region is vast and it would be great to have some boots on the ground in the Kamloops and Kootenay region even if it is a part-time role to support the program"

"There is poor and insufficient resourcing to address the rural health needs in the region and provide equitable programming for men across the catchment area"

"The biggest problem I see is the location of MHI gay, bi, or other men do not want to be seen at that area as they are thought to be drug users. And it is far from the downtown core where a lot of people use buses and the Rutland location is way too far out"

3. "Make partnerships with existing organizations, such as ASOs, local Pride Groups, Rel8, and Senior Gay Men of Kelowna for example that interact with the target demographics. Investigate Grants from the Regional Districts within the Catchment area, although these would not be large they would certainly help with the costs of events such as the Guythering or other programs in that Regional District. Investigate Regional Organizations in each region that provide funding for possible sources of funding. The Columbia Basin Trust for the Columbia Basin region of the catchment area is an example. An opportunity exists to create a trained Peer Network to help facilitate the delivery and design of programs or events spreading the load of the work over many as well as train new Peers to ensure continuity and availability of Peers and volunteers in the future"

"I think growing the online components, continuing to develop social media connections between men in the region. Possible a fb group that is not visible to the public, to protect those guys who wouldn’t want that, were conversations are happening through comment/chat/forum type of things"

"New opportunities to partner with agencies service dispersed populations of guys into guys such as those in Northern Health or Island Health may provide fruitful partnership"

4."Increased demand (for events like PRICK!) with limited staff and volunteers. Funding security and funding growth to meet the demands of an underserved area (Interior of BC). While the success of PRICK! is great - it is only proving how vast and far reaching the need is, with limited funding growth, the program has already reached it's ceiling. Staff support - as the target market of MSM in the interior of BC face stigma and isolation, so does the coordinator. Having a 'team' of MHI staff would help alleviate this situation as they would provide support for one another and create an environment/situation where ideas could be exchanged, and in effect chip away at the effects of stigma and isolation"

"In my experience apathy + lack of support from the community are always the major threats + obstacles to many LGBTQ endeavors in the Okanagan. I am unaware of political type threats to MHI although in the past I’ve hear discussion of decisions being made in the political interest rather than the community interest. I believe there have been 3 different co-ordinators in 3 years so lack of continuity would be an ongoing issue I would think"

"PHAC. The non-profit industrial complexes inbuilt tendency to self-sabotage by means of short funding cycles, tentative spaces/staffing/programs. Burn out cycles on the part of the staff as well as the community connections"

5."MHI is well positioned to 'spearhead' a feasibility study regarding a possible 'shared space' to serve the needs of the LGBTQI Community in Kelowna and the BC Interior"

"This is an excellent program and it is very important that there is on the ground support for MSM in small urban, rural and remote communities"

"The MHI is a vitally needed program in the Interior Health Authority region. There are many gaps in the health services such that the health needs and concerns of the MSM community are not being met or in some cases not even on the radar of IHA. This is a major contributing factor to the stable infection rates seen in the IHA as compared with other Health Authorities in the lower mainland area"