Celebrate LGBT Health Awareness Week with #LGBThealth
The US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) knows that the LGBT community constantly faces significant health challenges. Thus, the agency has set up LGBT Health Awareness Week this week and has gone on social media with #LGBThealth to ensure the message is heard by everyone.
This concept of inclusion is central to the idea behind President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. That’s why the US government is working to ensure every American has access to quality, affordable health care.
The issues with LGBT health and care
Karen DeSalvo, acting Assistant Secretary for Health (ASH) and National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), said that disparities affect LGBT Americans: “On average, they suffer from higher rates of cancer, obesity, tobacco use, HIV/AIDS, and mental illness than the rest of the nation.”
“Working hand-in-hand with the community to face these disparities head-on is a priority for HHS. And while coverage is an important part of that mission, we must do more if we are going to level the playing field for this and every group,” DeSalvo said.
She explained that through the 2016 LGBT Health Awareness Week, the HHS wanted to highlight some of the efforts they are undertaking to make a meaningful impact across the country.
The targets of LGBT health week
Among the efforts the different offices of the DHHS will be or have done include:
1. The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion will be setting 10-year national objectives for improving the health of all Americans.
This goal– Healthy People 2020– includes recognizing “the importance of securely and consistently collecting sexual orientation and gender identity information in national surveys and health records to effectively address LGBT health issues and disparities.”
2. The Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy will be implementing the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, a “coordinated national response to the HIV epidemic that continues to disproportionately affect gay and bisexual men and transgender women.”
This strategy will target the reduction of new HIV infections, increase access to care and improve the health of people living with HIV, and reduce HIV-related disparities.
3. The Office on Women’s Health has conducted a new pilot study among older lesbian and bisexual women: i.e. testing interventions that promote healthy weight and active lifestyles.
“By working with partners in different cities around the US, the study identified successful interventions and created positive outcomes for study participants. The results will be published in a special supplement of the journal Women’s Health Issues later this year,” DeSalvo said.
On an important note, DeSalvo said that the Surgeon General has already joined other administration officials in calling for an end to conversion therapy for LGBT Americans earlier this year.
Raising awareness for LGBT health
“LGBT Health Awareness Week is important, but as our efforts explained above make clear, fighting to ensure that every American has an equal shot at health is far from a short-term effort,” DeSalvo said.
As part of raising awareness, she said the DHHS wants “more voices to raise awareness, and more partners to support our work.”
She called on everyone to use this Wednesday (March 30, at 2 p.m. ET) on social media, “#LGBThealth to engage in this conversation and make sure our message is heard” on LGBT health.