Social acceptance of the LGBTQ population has improved, but we are still a long way to go if we want to keep facing discrimination and social stigma. This becomes especially evident if we look at our health system and the multiple health disparities LGBTQ populations face.
What is the health-related challenge they experience and what can we do to improve the quality of health services for these groups?
A higher risk to consider
From youth to adulthood, there is a number of health risks in the LGBTQ population. In their early years, members of these groups experience discrimination and fear of coming out, which increases their risk of depression, suicidal behavior, substance abuse, and even post-traumatic stress disorder. They are also more likely to experience sexual abuse and sexually transmitted diseases.
Youth and young adults have a higher incidence of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. They also have a higher risk of various types of cancer, including colon, prostate, anal, testicular, ovarian and breast cancer. This is because they are less likely to undergo check-ups and screenings.
LGBTQ elders face the same ailments as everybody else, but they are less likely to have children, which significantly reduces their family support when facing critical health issues. LGBTQ seniors are more likely to live an economically precarious life, and since they grew up in a less inclusive environment, they may be inclined to hide their sexual orientation to new acquaintances, adding up to their social challenges.
Other issues are more common in LGBTQ communities compared with their straight counterparts, including obesity, eating disorders, mental health issues, and homelessness. But that’s not it. There are disparities in the healthcare system as well.
Disparities in healthcare access
As noted, LGBTQ people have a higher risk of various health conditions, and one of the contributing factors to exacerbate this problem is limited access to healthcare. These patients are more likely to delay medical attention, using the emergency room more often and not attending routine check-ups. They usually do not have health insurance, and one of the main reasons why they neglect medical attention is that they are often harassed and discriminated by health professionals.
Health care workers are not trained and educated to treat these groups, and there’s not enough clinical research on LGBTQ health. Their health benefits, including their access to health insurance, might be restricted because of the increase in various risk factors, and they are often paralyzed by stigma when they need health assistance.
Creating a more inclusive environment
The most crucial change in the healthcare system is to be aware of how difficult it may be for members of the LGBTQ community to look for health assistance and make them feel welcome. Interacting respectfully with them is not only important but should be a part of the training and the policies in health care organizations.
A final measure to note would be spending more funding research to investigate LGBTQ health disparities to identify their challenges and provide a better understanding to physicians about ways to treat their health risks and prevent disease.
By extending our health care system to these groups, we will slowly contribute to a public health improvement in our population, which includes the LGBTQ community.