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A Safer Healthcare for LGBTQ+ Americans

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We're listening, learning, and celebrating our LGBTQ+ community.

As we celebrate Pride alongside our team members, leaders, and clients this June, we are listening, learning, and doing our best to amplify the challenges, disparities, and issues faced by the LGBTQ+ community across our healthcare system today. Pursuant to our mission to create a safer healthcare system for everyone, we do our best to advocate for the patients that our company strives to protect every day as often as we can: those that are the most vulnerable . This month, we’re shining a light on the challenges the LGBTQ+ community continues to navigate.

The LGBTQ+ Community Faces Ongoing Health Disparities

LGBTQ+ Americans continue to face disparities in healthcare treatment and outcomes in the U.S., including, but not limited to a lack of access to quality healthcare, discrimination and mistreatment at doctor’s offices, and diminished health outcomes.

As a reported by the CDC, people who identify as LGBTQ+ have less access to quality medical care for a variety of reasons that often endanger their lives through delays or denials of medically necessary care, including:

  • Fear of stigma, discrimination, or poor treatment, and/or prior negative experiences with health providers
  • Higher rates of poverty, making it more difficult to afford health insurance and care
  • Lack of culturally competent providers with knowledge of LGBTQ+ health
  • Refusal of care due to gender identity and/or sexual orientation
  • For transgender and many nonbinary individuals, lower rates of health insurance coverage

Discrimination and stigma against many LGBTQ+ individuals starts at a young age, putting them at  increased risk for negative health outcomes. According to CDC data, compared to their heterosexual peers, sexual minority youth (SMY) are more likely to have:

  • Been bullied at school
  • Seriously considered suicide
  • Felt sad or hopeless
  • Used illicit drugs
  • Been forced to have sex
  • Misused prescription opioids

CDC’s 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey data show substantial health disparities that exist among an estimated 2.6 million SMY, placing them at risk for negative health outcomes, including HIV infection and other sexually transmitted diseases. 

We believe it’s up to all of us to help increase access to quality healthcare and improve healthcare outcomes for SMY.

The Impacts of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected the LGBTQ+ community, and continues to impact both direct health outcomes and social determinants of health into 2021 and beyond.

A recently published analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) examined the reported experiences from self-identified LGBT individuals using data from the KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor, an ongoing research project tracking the public’s attitudes and experiences with COVID-19 vaccinations, and found that LGBT people experienced the COVID-19 pandemic differently than non-LGBT people, in the following ways:

  • Economic: A larger share of LGBT adults (56%) compared to non-LGBT adults (44%) reported that they or someone in their household has experienced COVID-era job loss.
  • Mental health: Three-fourths of LGBT people (74%) say worry and stress from the pandemic has negatively impacted their mental health, compared to 49% of those who are not LGBT, and are more likely to say that negative impact has been major (49% vs. 23%).
  • Views: More than one-third (34%) of LGBT adults say the news has generally underestimated the seriousness of the pandemic (compared to 23% of non-LGBT adults). Three-fourths of LGBT adults (74%) are either “very worried” or “somewhat worried” that they or someone in their family will get sick from the coronavirus, similar to responses from non-LGBT adults at 67%. A large share of LGBT adults report being willing to take the CDC’s recommended steps to avoid acquisition/transmission of the virus.
  • Vaccine: While LGBT people report wanting to get vaccinated at a similar pace as non-LGBT people, a greater share of LGBT adults see doing so as part of everyone’s responsibility to protect the health of others (75% vs. 48%), while a greater share of non-LGBT people see vaccination as a personal choice (49% vs. 24%).

COVID-19 and the Social Determinants of Health of the LGBTQ+ Community

A 2020 study published by the Movement Advancement Project (MAP), a gender equality-focused nonprofit think tank, researched how COVID-19 has impacted the  social determinants of health of the LGBTQ+ community. The study found that nearly two-thirds of LGBTQ+ households have lost a job since the pandemic began, compared with just under half of non-LGBTQ+ households. Furthermore, two-thirds of LGBTQ+ households had at least one serious financial problem, with that number jumping to 95% for Black LGBTQ+ people and 70% of Latino LGBTQ+ people, according to the report. Also, one in five households reported they were not getting enough food to eat every day. And nearly four in 10 LGBTQ+ households had been unable to get needed medical care or delayed getting medical care for a serious issue, compared to about two in 10 non-LGBTQ+ households. LGBTQ+ households also lost health coverage at double the rate of non-LGBTQ+ households, according to the report.

According to James Casey, policy researcher and co-author of the MAP report “We know LGBTQ households and the community more broadly experience higher rates of discrimination in the workplace, steep obstacles to housing, accessing medical care — and to the extent that LGBTQ people and LGBTQ people of color are experiencing the full force of this pandemic, it’s likely their recovery will take even longer. So, even the vaccine coming won’t stop the long-lasting economic, social and physical impact of the virus on the most vulnerable.”

Prior to COVID-19, healthcare access, coverage, and discrimination were already existing obstacles facing the LGBTQ+ community. But in the wake of the pandemic, many of those obstacles to healthcare compounded, creating disproportionate impacts to LGBTQ+ Americans.

It’s Time for Cultural Competency Across Healthcare

As we all work to create safe healthcare experiences for LGBTQ+ Americans, we need to also advocate for increased cultural competency in healthcare, starting with providers that are closest to the patients, including nurses. As shared this June by Nurse.org, below are suggested steps to improve cultural competence in caring for LGBTQ+ patients, written by nurses for fellow nurses.

  • Expand your own LGBTQIA+ care knowledge
  • Be aware of key LGBTQIA+ definitions
  • Deepen your LGBTQIA+ knowledge
  • Create a welcoming environment for LGBTQIA+ patients
  • Use inclusive language
  • Use gender-neutral language
  • Ask open-ended questions
  • Reflect the patient’s language
  • Be aware of mental and physical health risks for LGBTQIA+ patients
  • Convey respect

To our partners, leaders, and all stakeholders across our healthcare system in the U.S., we all need to work to create a safer, more inclusive healthcare for everyone. And that certainly includes caring for our LGBTQ+ community, not just in June as we celebrate Pride, but each and every day moving forward.

What We Can Do Today

Read about the impacts of COVID-19 on LGBTQ+ Americans. Here’s an excellent report from the Human Rights Campaign. 

Support The Trevor Project with us, the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning (LGBTQ) young people under 25.

Walk with us at the Nashville Pride Festival’s annual pride parade this fall in Nashville. 

Amplify the work of your local LGBTQ+ community organizations, leaders, and advocates.

Educate yourself on the anti-LGBTQ bills introduced in 2021 in your state. Here’s a breakdown published by the Human Rights Campaign. 

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