Report Details Significant Health Disparities in Aging California Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Population; National Study on LGBT Health Coming Thursday

In response to a report released yesterday by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research showing that California's ageing lesbian, gay and bisexual population are more likely to suffer from certain chronic conditions, the Human Rights Campaign, the America’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organisation, called on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to strengthen its efforts to address the health needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, including a commitment to collect LGBT health data through federal health surveys and programs. 

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The UCLA report, which draws upon data from the California Health Interview Survey, can be viewed at www.askchis.com.

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In addition, on Thursday, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) will release its report “The Health of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People: Building a Foundation for Better Understanding.”  In 2009, HHS asked IOM to “conduct a review and prepare a report assessing the state of the science on the health status of LGBT populations; identify research gaps and opportunities related to LGBT health; and outline a research agenda that will assist NIH in enhancing its research efforts in this area conducting a review.”

While the IOM report will help identify gaps in research, it is also imperative that the federal government follow California’s lead and collect health data about LGBT people.  Such data is critical to fully understanding and addressing the unique health needs of this community.  HRC, through its

Blueprint for Positive Change, hascalled on HHS to collect this data and continues to work with a coalition of LGBT and health organizations to push for this important step toward eliminating LGBT health disparities.

“Sadly, our healthcare system isn’t keeping pace with the unique needs of LGBT people around the country,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese.  “This new UCLA study shows that more attention – in data collection, research, prevention, treatment and elsewhere – must be given to the healthcare needs of LGBT people.  We hope that the IOM study to be released later this week will be the catalyst to a new and more expansive perspective on LGBT healthcare by the federal government.”

Among the UCLA study’s key findings:

·    Gay and bisexual men have more chronic conditions;

·    Gay and bisexual men experience higher rates of high blood pressure, diabetes, psychological distress, physical disability and poor self-rated health than their heterosexual counterparts;

·    Ageing LGB people report symptoms of psychological distress significantly higher than their heterosexual counterparts (1.45 times higher for gay and bisexual men and 1.35 times higher for LGB women);

·    Ageing LGBs suffer greater psychological distress;

·    Even more affluent, educated LGB people may be uninsured.

Many older LGBT people decline to seek healthcare in times of need out of fear of discrimination and poor treatment by healthcare professionals.  The HRC Foundation’s Healthcare Equality Index (HEI) rates healthcare facilities on their policies related to LGBT healthcare equality.  The HEI can be used by healthcare facilities as an organisational assessment tool in their treatment of LGBT patients, and as a guide to safe and friendly facilities for patients.  The 2011 HEI will be released later this spring.

“This study is a clarion call for the federal government to pay closer attention to the health disparities that the LGBT community faces.” added Solmonese.  “In the past year, we have seen significant advances in rules and regulations regarding the treatment and care of LGBT patients, but there is so much more that must be done to fully understand and address the health needs of our community.  The federal government must take a leading role in addressing this discrepancy.”

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