Editors' Note: Guest blogger Hutson W. Inniss is the Executive Director for the National Coalition for LGBT Health. The Coalition is committed to improving the health and well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals through federal advocacy that is focused on research, policy, education, and training.
As the 9th annual LGBT Health Awareness Week begins today, advocates across the country will walk into offices, and ask their elected officials to make a commitment to support LGBT health. They seek to have their elected officials to affirm that all people, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, deserve healthy lives and access to health care that effectively addresses all aspects of their needs, including prevention, treatment, and wellness services.
The campaign, a nationwide event that seeks to promote lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender health, runs from March 28 to April 1, 2011. LGBT Health Awareness Week is organized by the National Coalition for LGBT Health with support from its membership and community partners, which include a wide range of grassroots and community based organizations.
The theme for this year's LGBT Health Awareness Week is "Come Out for Health;" it encourages healthcare providers, policy makers, and LGBT people themselves to talk openly about their lives. We want to encourage discussions about what can be done to promote health and access to health care for LGBT people.
The campaign is an opportunity for people to educate providers, community leaders, policy makers, and allied organizations about issues of particular concern to the our community, including mental health, sexual health, substance use, domestic violence, HIV/AIDS, and many other topics.
Numerous federal agencies recognize disparities in health that affect LGBT community, including major divisions of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS): the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The HHS Secretary's Advisory Committee on Healthy People 2020 acknowledges the imperative to address the disparities in status and health outcomes that affect us.
LGBT people are significantly more likely to be uninsured then the general population. In the United States, the ratio of uninsured gays and lesbians to heterosexuals is 2 to 1. For transgender people the uninsured rates are even higher: in a recent New York state study, 21% of transgender people reported having no health insurance at all.
The lack of insurance is a severe barrier to accessing necessary care: 39% of the GLB community delayed diagnostic or treatment services because of a lack of insurance, versus 25% of heterosexual men and women. Fear of discrimination from healthcare providers plays a significant role: 16% of lesbians and 15% of the larger GLB community said they delayed seeking care because of a fear of discrimination, versus only 3% of heterosexuals.
This week, the National Coalition for LGBT Health asks you to join us. In a world of competing priorities and demands on every moment in our lives, we ask that you find time to take care of yourself, your family and your community.
Take some time to engage in those things that can have major impact on our health, such as having the conversation about your gender identity and sexual orientation with your provider. Encourage your friends to go make an appointment and come out to their providers. Find the time to make a commitment to an issue that is often overlooked but always close at hand.
Our health and wellness is an essential part of our civil rights, and in the spirit of this year's LGBT Health Awareness Week, we ask you to come out for health.