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From the President: Emerging Issues

 From the President

By Susan Chacon
President of the Board
AMCHP

I recently attended a training on providing quality, equitable health care for the LGBTQ community with a focus on reducing health disparities, including access to health care and health insurance; physical health and well-being; mental health and well-being; and treatment for tobacco, alcohol and other substance use.

Here's what I learned:

  • Lesbians and bisexual women are less likely to receive mammograms.
  • The overall rate of cancer is higher for LGB adults.
  • LGB youth are much more likely to be threatened or injured by a weapon in school and bullied.
  • LGB youth are more likely to be overweight.
  • Suicide and suicidal ideation are higher for LGTB and Q (questioning) youth.

There is also a lack of data. No federal health survey includes a question on sexual orientation or gender identity, and only a few state surveys ask respondents about their sexual orientation or gender identity. This severely limits researchers' ability to fully understand the LGBTQ population's needs and hinders the development of public policies and programs that seek to improve the LGBTQ population's health and well-being.

Title V practitioners can take steps to be more inclusive and reduce barriers to care for sex and gender minorities. Many LGBTQ people experience rejection and stigmatization due to their gender identity and sexual orientation and are often sensitive to subtle cues in the environment.

In New Mexico, our Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs (CYSHCN) program will consult with the Sexual and Gender Equity project in June to evaluate our youth transition assessment forms to make it easier for our LGBTQ clients to complete the forms with answers that truly reflect who they are and facilitate effective and respectful communication with their Title V care coordinator. This dialogue will be essential during the transition planning process as the Youth with Special Health Care Needsand their care coordinators develop a transition plan and identify adult providers who will be sensitive to their overall needs.

Other steps you can take include making a few simple adjustments to your clinics or office space that communicate to your LGBTQ clients that you welcome them and want them to feel comfortable. When creating brochures and posters, include some that reflect issues of relevance to the LGBTQ population. Nondiscrimination policies include sexual orientation but adding gender identity or gender expression can be more inclusive.

For those of us in Title V, I know that our applications could also be a place to evaluate how our performance measures, activities, and evidenced-based practices may help to improve the health and well-being of sex and gender minorities. Mindfulness, compassion, respect, and policy can be tools we can use to address inequities in care for sex and gender minorities. When we value all people equally, everyone has the opportunity to achieve the greatest level of health and well-being.