on LGBT health
Too often, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT)
individuals face disparities in health care services. Through an initiative
by the Diversity Steering Committee, MGHers recently had the opportunity
to hear from Stewart Landers, senior consultant with John Snow, Inc.,
a public health research and consulting firm. Landers' topic, "Why
Everyone Should Care about Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Health,"
addressed the issue of health care disparities in the sexual minority
Landers discussed the study of LGBT health in America and pointed to the
major areas of disparities: mental health, substance use and sexually
transmitted diseases. Sometimes, according to Landers, society's negative
response to alternative sexualities leads to self-image and self-esteem
issues among those in the LGBT population. This in turn can influence
choices regarding sexual behavior and substance abuse and can put LGBT
people at significantly higher risk for mental health disorders such as
depression and suicide.
Issues of health care access also were addressed. Landers cited surveys
that found that some patients choose not to be open about their sexuality
with their health care providers. He also said statistics show that many
hospitals do not have policies in place that allow visitation rights to
Said Landers, "Understanding more about how disparities impact the
care these groups receive and targeting services to address these outcomes
will help not only LGBT individuals, but the patient population in general."
Deborah Washington, RN, MS, PhDc, director of Diversity for MGH Patient
Care Services, remarked on the application of these lessons to clinical
practice. "Communicating openly with patients is one of the surest
paths to eliminating disparities in care," said Washington.