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Our Healthbox Launches
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Quiet History In 2023 - Our Healthbox Launches In New Brunswick

17
Jun
2024
Contributors
Darshanand Maraj
Research Coordinator, Our Healthbox Program Implementation
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On January 23, 2023, during a small ceremony, history was quietly made in Canada at ENSEMBLE in Moncton, New Brunswick with the launch of the first Our Healthbox machine.

Despite freezing temperatures and heavy snowfall from an ongoing storm, a patient crowd lined up outside the ENSEMBLE building, demonstrating their support and the community’s need for Our Healthbox—a vital resource for health and well-being.

Our Healthbox was launched amidst rising HIV cases and Canada’s devastating opioid crisis, which continues to inflict tragic impacts on individuals, families, and communities nationwide. New Brunswick, like many regions in Canada, has faced significant challenges with substance use, leading to a surge in overdose deaths and the spread of infectious diseases such as Hepatitis C and HIV. Stigma surrounding substance use and HIV has further hindered the delivery of crucial harm reduction services and essential supplies.

We are currently in the midst of a substance use crisis that sees the death of one New Brunswicker every four days. Deborah R. Warren, Executive Director at ENSEMBLE

Our Healthbox aims to provide low-barrier access to essential health and harm reduction supplies, leveraging interactive dispensing systems to improve health outcomes and foster community support for underserved populations across Canada. Dr. Sean B. Rourke, Scientist at the MAP Centre for Urban Health Solutions, emphasizes the initiative’s goal: “Everyone in Canada deserves timely access to healthcare essentials. Our Healthbox bridges gaps in care tailored to each community.”

A cornerstone of Our Healthbox is harm reduction, particularly concerning substance use and HIV.

The smart machines dispense free self-testing kits for HIV and COVID-19, naloxone kits, and essential harm reduction and sexual health supplies. Operating like vending machines, they also provide health educational resources and service directories, ensuring people can find necessary healthcare and support without fear of judgment.

By strategically placing Healthboxes in locations like health clinics, pharmacies, and public spaces, Our Healthbox ensures individuals can access needed supplies easily. Each Healthbox is tailored to community needs, containing items such as naloxone kits, new needles, condoms, hygiene products, and HIV self-test kits, accompanied by educational materials promoting safe practices.

Our Healthbox provides lifesaving resources and reduces infection risks—free naloxone will save many lives.

The initiative’s success hinges on collaboration and support from individuals and organizations committed to equity in communities. The East Coast launch of Our Healthbox is generously funded by Even the Odds, an initiative by Staples Canada and the MAP Centre for Urban Health Solutions, aimed at raising awareness of inequities and fostering vibrant, healthy communities across Canada.

Staples and Even the Odds empower communities

Wanda Walkden, Chief Human Resources and Communications Officer at Staples Canada, expresses enthusiasm, "Our Healthbox connects people with vital resources, empowering them to manage their health. We’re proud to support Our Healthbox in the Maritime Provinces.”

Research funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), St. Michael’s Foundation, and Even the Odds will assess the initiative’s impact on underserved communities nationwide. The initiative strives to ensure every Canadian has access to essential health resources and opportunities to thrive.

By raising awareness of Our Healthbox, we aim to combat stigma around substance use, promote harm reduction as a vital public health strategy, and encourage dialogue on healthcare needs. Our Healthbox stands to make a lasting difference in Canadian communities, fostering resilience and promoting health for all.

About the Organizations and Authors

ENSEMBLE is a community-based organization in Moncton (NB) that works to address complex social issues by providing support, education and prevention initiatives.

REACH Nexus is a national research group dedicated to tackling HIV, Hepatitis C, and other STBBIs (sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections) across Canada. Our mission includes identifying and reaching undiagnosed individuals, expanding new testing methods, enhancing connections to healthcare, increasing access to prevention options, and combating HIV stigma. Housed within the MAP Centre for Urban Health Solutions at St. Michael’s Hospital, Unity Health Toronto, REACH Nexus receives funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

Even the Odds is a partnership between MAP and Staples Canada to raise awareness of inequity in Canada, and to help build vibrant, healthy communities.

Contributors
Darshanand Maraj
Research Coordinator, Our Healthbox Program Implementation
Interested in contributing to the Our Healthbox blog? Your story, ideas and insight matter. Whether you’re from a Community Based Organization, independent, or otherwise, we’d love to hear from you!
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