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Use National LGBT Health Awareness Week To Address Disparities In Care

Every care provider, from doctors’ offices to outpatient clinics to large tertiary hospital systems, wants to be open and accepting to all patients. That means taking the time to understand and overcome visible differences such as race or gender, and also the less visible aspects that block or discourage access to safe, equitable care.

Creating heightened awareness and advocacy is the driving purpose behind National LGBT Health Awareness Week, which runs March 25-29, 2019. Created by the National Coalition for LGBT Health in 2003, the week serves to raise awareness around a broad scope of LGBT health issues.

As an example, take a look at discrimination as it affects the LGBT community. When insurance coverage becomes difficult or impossible to obtain, especially in the transgender community, then vital health care needs go unmet. The situation is equally difficult for LGBT people of color.

Affordable Care Act provides some relief—more is needed

For many in the LGBT community, the advent of the Affordable Care Act meant that they could get insurance coverage. It also meant that LGBT population data began to be included in major national health surveys, which can lead toward targeted care and policies for those who are the most vulnerable. Even so, obtaining insurance is only one of the barriers that someone in the LGBT community, especially someone who is transgender, faces in receiving care.

The LGBT community is as diverse as any other, but faces higher risks (particularly among youth) for: 

  • anxiety
  • bullying
  • cancers
  • cardiovascular diseases
  • depression
  • isolation
  • obesity
  • rejection
  • sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
  • substance use

 

These issues often are exacerbated by poor or no health care due to a lack of awareness, or insensitivity, from providers. This is a unique community, with unique needs around engagement and information sharing. The more healthcare providers know and understand, the better equipped they are to offer comprehensive, compassionate care.

Where to begin? Same as you would with any other marginalized group—by understanding who they are and learning to interact in ways that ensure open dialogue and trust. That can mean simply identifying someone by their preferred gender, a small act but one with profound meaning to the transgender community.

Learning how to meet LGBT patients’ needs also means understanding the laws around their care as patients, as well as how to become an effective ally and partner in their ongoing health and wellness continuum. Creating a welcoming environment is the platform on which all this is built. It’s never too late to help those who have been shut out of quality healthcare to obtain the care, positive outcomes, respect. and dignity they deserve.

Learn more about applicable LGBT Awareness training from HCCS, A HealthStream Company, by clicking here.

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