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U of T public health students receive $1-​million to provide FOXY sexual health education to teens in Arctic

December 15/2014

A sexual health education program led by Dalla Lana School of Public Health PhD students received the Arctic Inspiration Prize — worth $1-million — at an Ottawa gala on December 11.

FOXY — Fostering Open eXpression among Youth — is an arts-based sexual health education program that empowers young women living in northern Canada to develop leadership and confidence through photography, music and other traditional arts.  FOXY is the brainchild of Candice Lys who devised the program as an antidote to the inadequate sexual education she received as a teen growing up in Fort Smith, Northwest Territories (NWT).

“The sexual health of northern youth is a serious public health concern, with extremely high rates of sexually-transmitted infections, adolescent pregnancy, and sexual violence across the NWT, Nunavut and Yukon,” said Lys.

“We are thrilled to receive this prestigious prize that will support our team of youth, elders, educators, community-based researchers and artists to deliver sexual health education that is relevant and accessible to youth of all genders, in all three territories.”

FOXY began as Lys’ PhD research project in collaboration with Gwen Healey, both students in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health’s Division of Social and Behavioural Health Sciences who grew up in northern Canada. In partnership with Carmen Logie, Assistant Professor in the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, the program recently expanded its scope to better serve LGBTQ youth.

FOXY is now a non-profit organization led by Lys as Executive Director that has reached more than 500 youth through workshops with young people in 20 communities across NWT as well as two peer retreats that earn teens up to four high school credits.

Dionne Gesink supervises Lys and Healey and is overjoyed with the recognition of FOXY and Lys’ accomplishments.

“FOXY is a creative, holistic, and fun sexual health program with the potential to do a lot of good,” said Gesink, an Associate Professor of Epidemiology at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health.  “I’m thrilled and tremendously proud of the program and the positive impact that it’s having on young women living in northern communities.”

Lys plans to use the Arctic Inspiration Prize to expand FOXY into communities across all three territories and to include a parallel program for young men that is led by a team of male facilitators from the North.

​“I always knew that FOXY was a million dollar idea.”

The Arctic Inspiration Prize was founded in 2012 by Arnold Witzig and Sima Sharifi, founders of the S. and A. Inspiration Foundation, and FOXY is the first project to be awarded the entire $1-million prize.

With files from CBC News.

photo courtesy of Candice Lys