Health Disparities in the LGBT Community and the Importance of Data

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) individuals are becoming increasingly visible in our society. Unfortunately, they are subjected to discrimination and stigma similar to other marginalized groups such as racial and ethnic minorities and people with disabilities. The current political and social context and unique health care needs, impact the health of LGBT individuals, resulting in health disparities (poorer health outcomes compared with their heterosexual and/or non-transgender peers). In order to identify and eliminate these disparities, health care providers must 1) be willing and able to competently gather information about whether their patient identifies as LGBT, 2) understand the risk factors associated with such identities, and 3) use that information to improve their patient’s health. Collection of sexual orientation and gender identity in public (more…)

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English Only

UnknownCurrently, I work at a wonderful community center in Little India in Chicago. In our youth program we have a diverse group of kids whose parents are from all over the world. English is every child’s second language. Daily, I come in to work and bask in the beauty of the students conversing in their mother tongues. This is what community means to me.

So, I was dismayed the day one of my co-workers asked a couple of our students to speak English only while at program. I asked her what was the problem and she said that we had an English-only policy. I was floored. I was never told about this policy and I regularly converse in Spanish with our Spanish-speaking students. My co-worker said the policy is always in place but had not been enforced by the last program director. Shortly after this incident, the new director had a group meeting and reminded the students and tutors that they had to speak English during program. (more…)

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Health Equity: A Moral and Economic Imperative

Wrenn_Headshot (2)Growing up the 7th and much-planned child of a newly remarried physician father and college-educated, homemaker mother, I had many unearned advantages and opportunities not afforded to my elder siblings. My younger brother and myself were born during times of prosperity and opportunity. A blended family, one could speculate on the biological and genetic differences that contributed to disparate paths among the children, and a full discussion of the multi-determined factors that contribute to “success” in parenting is beyond the scope of this article. What I’d like to invite you to consider, is my premise that striving towards health equity is both a moral and economic imperative.  In my attempt to unite disparate political (more…)

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Finding the Words: Gender Affirmation and Language

UnknownThis article will be a little more personal than my previous articles. I want to share a bit about myself, my identity and what it means to me to be seen and affirmed.

Monday, March 31, was the International Transgender Day of Visibility, but I was just as invisible as any other day. You see, I’m not out on the job. I haven’t told my co-workers or my students that I’m genderqueer. They don’t know my preferred pronouns and they default to feminine pronouns based on who they perceive me to be. It hurts and I hate it.

I probably could come out. I know the laws in Illinois and I’m protected under anti-discrimination laws. My co-workers are pretty decent people, they might understand, right? I may never know. All I know is the tightness in my chest and stomach when I think about having “the talk” with them. I feel nauseous and anxious like I need to hide or curl up in a ball. I also feel dishonest and a bit deceitful. Fear keeps me silent and holds (more…)


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  • April 7th, 2014 The City of Brotherly Love and the Kids We Need to Love Better
    By Glenna Crooks
  • A Hand Up, Not a Handout: Paycheck to Paycheck and the Voice of 43 Million

    Janice Lynch Schuster

    Once, as a child, I remember crying at the sight of a commercial for CARE. In the old days, we did not have 24/7, real-time access to the suffering of others, and I suppose the shock of it hit me in some way.

    And then the years passed, and whether meaning to or not, we seem to have grown accustomed to what we see. As the entertainment industry grows ever more out-there in its portrayals of suffering, cruelty, and violence, the heart finds it better to harden, or be overwhelmed.

    Which is why I was so thrown off when, at a screening of the new HBO Documentary, Paycheck to Paycheck: The Life & Times of Katrina Gilbert, I burst into tears. The focus of the film is Katrina Gilbert, a 30-year old Southerner and single mother with three young children. Her story is meant to put a face on the numbers, the 42 million women The Shriver Report counts as being on the ever-present brink of abject poverty—and the 23 million young children who depend on them. (more…)

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    Let’s Talk About It: Trans* Youth and Suicide Prevention

    UnknownAs discussed in my previous article, bullying and discrimination take a toll on young people. In addition to physical symptoms, it can lead to depression, self-harm and, for some, suicide. This is particularly true for queer and trans* youth.

    There are a lot of statistics about suicide among youth, particularly suicide among LGB youth. There is also quite a bit of research on mental health and transgender adults. However, I was hard pressed to find much research that specifically addresses transgender youth and suicide prevention. Although, there is overlap with other research on youth, and many of the same issues that affect transgender adults, also affect transgender teens, it is important to consider the unique difficulties that transgender youth face. (more…)

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    National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day: Educate, Test, Involve, Treat

    IMG_20140206_180005763I was five years old in 1990, when HIV-AIDS was entering the national spotlight, sparking awareness and fear. We were educated in elementary school about the transmission of the virus; I remember a lengthy conversation [ more so my parents talking at me] about why it was important not to touch someone with an open wound. In years to follow, pivotal cultural figures like Magic Johnson would come out announcing their status,  further proving that the disease could effect anyone.

    First appearing in the early 1980s, HIV-AIDS quickly became a national concern.  And today,  while advances in the treatment of HIV-AIDS has allowed those infected to live longer, there are serious disparities in the access to health care services for racial and ethnic minorities.

    According to the CDC, African Americans have the highest rates of HIV-AIDS when compared to all other racial/ethnic groups in the United States, accounting for a higher proportion of HIV infections at all stages of disease—from new infections to deaths. And while African Americans represent only 12% of the population, they  accounted for  44% of new HIV infections in 2010.  Without education, intervention, and treatment, it is estimated that  1 in 16 black men and 1 in 32 black women will be infected with HIV in their lifetime. (more…)

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    January Man of the Month 2014: Dr. Dominic Mack

    Dr-Dominic-Mack“What if we had eliminated disparities in health in the last century? – Dr. David Satcher, 16th Surgeon General, United States of America.

    The mission of Morehouse College is to develop students with disciplined minds who will lead lives of leadership and service. The institution has more than held true to its mission and has acted as a stepping stone for some of America’s top African American leaders: Martin Luther King, JR; Regina Benjamin, former United States Surgeon General; and presidential hopeful Herman Cain.  

    Health reform legislation has made great progress in opening the door to communities that have historically had only limited access to health care resources. Yet, extreme disparities continue to exist. According to a Kaiser Foundation Report, people of color continue to “ experience worse access to health care and worse health outcomes than their white counterparts. The economic and opportunity costs associated with disparities are shared by everyone through money spent on preventable medical care and lost productivity in the workplace, among other things.” (more…)

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    A Different Kind of Health Care Disparity, and How Technology Can Help

    Dr. Shaundra EichstadtUncertainty.

    It’s a feeling we’d avoid if we could. But perhaps feeling uncertain is worst when it describes how you feel about your health care or the health care of a loved one. Should you undergo a surgery? Start chemotherapy, or undergo radiation first? What would you do if the closest specialist to treat your condition was located a state away?   (more…)

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    Should Health Care be Considered a Right? A Look at the Role of Health Care in the Civil Rights Movement

    Danielle Brooks

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”- United States Declaration of Independence, 1776

    This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed to the inalienable rights of life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. “- I Have a Dream,” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1963

    The quotes listed above reference two of the most important moments in American history, moments which represent freedom: the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the Civil Rights movement nearly 200 years later. Yesterday, policy makers, civil rights leaders, and celebrities joined together alongside citizens to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom where Martin Luther King Jr. made his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech. When thinking about the promise set forth in the Declaration of Independence and Dr. Kings’ call for America to fulfill that promise, I am always drawn back to the particular passages listed above and how both parties recognized the importance of life, liberty, and happiness for all individuals. Yet to attain these rights that both the Founding Fathers and Dr. King declared to be unalienable, having health and access to health care is a necessity. I recently sat down with Ruth Perot, CEO of the Summit Health Institute for Research and Education Inc., (SHIRE) a Washington D.C. – based organization that (more…)

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    Igniting Disruptive Change in The Gambia Without Harmful Disruption

    Tostan Photo of Mbamata Fatou Jawneh

    Many believe that changes which may be considered “disruptive” to established societal beliefs or practices need to come about through disruptive methods, particularly when we know that those who hold power are often resistant to change. But Mbamata “Fatou” Jawneh, an inspirational participant in Tostan’s non formal education program from The Gambia, is a woman who makes things happen through building bridges rather than burning them. With her natural ability to lead and the knowledge and skills she learned through participating in Tostan’s non formal education program, she has helped to ignite positive change in her community and beyond on a large range of health topics.

    (more…)

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    Breakthrough: Banding Together Against Gender Based Violence

    BLynn Harris Headshotreakthrough is a global human rights organization that uses the power of art, media, culture, and community mobilization to inspire people to take bold action for dignity, equality, and justice. We work from centers in the U.S. and India to end violence and discrimination against women and promote human rights worldwide. We believe, first and foremost, that human rights start with you. While we need good laws, courts and state actors to help enshrine and protect  society, where human rights begin, live and thrive are with humans: in our innate value and in how we treat the people in our spheres small and wide. When we as individuals and communities bring dignity, equality, and justice into our everyday choices and interactions, we work together to build what Breakthrough calls a culture of human rights. (more…)

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    Disruptive Women: International Week

    0805 DW International BannerJournalist and author Nicholas Kristof said that “in this century the paramount moral challenge will be the struggle for gender equality around the world.” If we take a moment to look at the challenges that women continue to face, it is difficult to disagree. We are living in a world where millions of women do not have access to maternal care and forced prostitution claims the freedoms of women across the globe. Despite these realities, people are standing up and taking action against global health disparity and gender inequality. Disruptive Women is proud to make this week “International Week” and to highlight individuals and organizations tackling complex, difficult to solve issues. Read below to get a sneak peak at this week’s series and check out the map highlighting organizations that are doing amazing work to increase access to essential services for women worldwide. (more…)

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    A Recap on the #HealthEquity Twitter Storm

    jancefreemanCongresswomen Judy Chu, Barbara Lee, Lucille Roybal-Allard, and Donna Christensen worked together yesterday to host a “Twitter Storm” called #HealthEquity in order to brainstorm ideas to make health care accessible to everyone. Many people and organizations participated, answering the congresswomen’s questions and joining in a lively dialogue about health. (more…)

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