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Health Disparities in LGBTQ+ Communities

Author: Christine Chen

Editors: Chiara Chen and Shirley Chen

Artist: Astrid Chen

The LGBTQ+ community stands as a vibrant and integral part of society. However, despite progress towards equality, many individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or non-hetero-normative face problems in healthcare. With a higher risk for both mental and physical issues, lack of access to healthcare becomes an even more pressing issue for the community. 

Individuals in the LGBTQ+ community are at higher risk of mental problems such as suicidal thoughts, mood disorders, anxiety, eating disorders, alcohol, and substance abuse. They also exhibit higher risks of developing certain health conditions, with gay and bisexual men being more likely to develop HIV/AIDS, as well as an increased risk for prostate, testicular, anal, and colon cancer. These disparities might be related to limited culturally sensitive screening services. Furthermore, lesbians and bisexual women also face a higher risk of breast, ovarian, and endometrial cancers due to factors such as fewer full-term pregnancies, fewer mammograms, and higher rates of obesity. LGBTQ+ adolescents often report having more mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and increased suicidal behaviors than their heterosexual counterparts. They are also more likely to engage in sexual behaviors leading to increased incidences of STDs such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, and HIV— with the number being twice as high as in heterosexual men. Despite the increased health risks facing the LGBTQ+ community, they still receive less health insurance, delays in getting quality care, lack of cultural competence and unfair treatment by healthcare providers

The lack of clinical research on LGBTQ+ health-related issues and the lack of specific education and training for health care workers contribute to these disparities, causing many to fear the healthcare system due to the stigma, discrimination, and institutional bias presented to them. The fear of coming out as being queer leads many youths to experience depression, PTSD, substance abuse, and other self-destructive behaviors. Unfortunately, their fears are often validated by the rejection they face from parents, especially those from low socioeconomic status, religious backgrounds, or immigrant families. Shockingly, statistics show that 40% of homeless youths are from the LGBTQ+ community, highlighting the importance of family acceptance for positive self-esteem and overall health. Even after coming out, many youths still struggle to find acceptance within LGBTQ+ communities and face difficulties in reporting their sexual identity to clinicians. 

With all of this knowledge, a question remains– what can be done? Some propose that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services should establish an office dedicated to LGBTQ+ Health. This office would be used to ensure the coordination of consistent and scientifically driven responses across the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to address LGBTQ+ health disparities. It would involve collecting demographics on age, sex, race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status, as well as questions on sexual orientation and gender identity. Furthermore, there have been requests for immediate priority of cultural competency training for medical and nursing students, along with educational programs to make sure all healthcare facilities are well-informed. One article discusses the roles nurses play in carrying out interventions such as inclusive education about sex and gender diversity. It highlights that advocacy efforts by nurses should focus on policy considerations, including the inclusion of LGBTQ+ health in nursing school curricula, supporting healthcare provider training, engaging in public health initiatives for the LGBTQ+ community, advocating for competency in LGBT health for providers and consumers, and ensuring compliance with non-discriminatory policies. Even though health disparities still exist, progress is being made with the reduction of barriers to care and prejudice in the healthcare system. 

 

Citations:

Miller, Jake. “Health Disparities Persist for LGB People.” Harvard Medical School, 20 Feb.

2024. 

Hafeez, Hudaisa, et al. “Health Care Disparities among Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and

Transgender Youth: A Literature Review.” Cureus, U.S. National Library of Medicine,

20 Apr. 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5478215/. Accessed 29 Mar.

2024. 

President, Julia Cusick Vice, et al. “How to Close the LGBT Health Disparities Gap.” Center

for American Progress, 20 Mar. 2024, www.americanprogress.org/article/how-to-close-

the-lgbt-health-disparities-gap/. Accessed 29 Mar. 2024. 

Medina-Martínez, Jorge, et al. “Health Inequities in LGBT People and Nursing Interventions

to Reduce Them: A Systematic Review.” International Journal of Environmental Research

and Public Health, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 10 Nov. 2021,

“LGBTQ+ Health Disparities.” LGBTQ+ Health Disparities | Cigna Healthcare,

www.cigna.com/knowledge-center/lgbt-

Accessed 29 Mar. 2024. 

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