Health Disparities Among LGBT Populations: Finding Out What We Don't Know
[EQFL NOTE: This past May, Brian Winfield delivered a presentation on LGBT Health Disparities during the Florida Diversity Council's inaugural Health Diversity Summit. He was subsequently asked to re-craft the presentation into an article for publication. Below is the article appearing in the current issue of Diverse Voices, Moffitt Cancer Center's diversity newsletter. Moffitt is widely ranked as one of the top cancer treatment and research centers in the nation and received HRC's Healthcare Leadership Award for scoring high in their 2012 Healthcare Equality Index.]
There's a new and growing field in the world of medicine that focuses, in a comprehensive way, on the health care and outcomes of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) populations. Quality LGBT-focused healthcare faces many challenges, nearly all of which can be boiled down to a single cause - a history of institutionalized discrimination.
On March 31, 2011, the National Institute of Medicine released a study to assess the current state of knowledge about the health of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, as well as to identify research gaps.
The report noted areas in which a disproportionate burden fell on LGBT populations. They included: HIV, Breast Cancer/Obesity, Depression / Suicide Substance Use / Abuse, Homelessness, Violence, and others.
According to the IOM report, the biggest contributing factor to LGBT health disparities is that LGBT populations are much more likely to be uninsured. This discrepancy exists because LGB people cannot get married, and to a lesser extent because job discrimination forces some into lower paying positions that are less likely to offer health insurance.
Separately that same year, the Joint Commission found that LGBT patients face other barriers to equitable care, such as refusals of care, delayed or substandard care, mistreatment, inequitable policies and practices, little or no inclusion in health outreach or education, and inappropriate restrictions or limits on visitation.
We can only estimate the full extent of LGBT disparities due to a consistent lack of data collection on sexual orientation and gender identity.
As we stand here today, no federal health survey includes a question on sexual orientation or gender identity.
The IOM study concluded that researchers need much more data to advance understanding of the health needs of all LGBT individuals. Building a more solid evidence base for LGBT health concerns will not only benefit LGBT individuals, but also add to the repository of health information we have that pertains to all people, according to the report.
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 The Health of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People: Building a Foundation for Better Understanding - http://www.iom.edu/Reports/2011/The-Health-of-Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-and-…