Pride Month is celebrated around the world in June to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall Uprising. Pride is both a celebration and a protest and encourages acceptance, solidarity, and visibility of LGBTQ2S+ people and their rights, including their right to healthcare.
Compared to the general population, it is well documented internationally that LGBTQ2S+ people experience poorer health outcomes, both psychologically and physically. These poorer health outcomes are a consequence of healthcare disparities. That is, LGBTQ2S+ individuals face unequal burdens in healthcare which increases the incidence, or prevalence, of poorer health outcomes.
This is a vicious circle that continues due to the lack of attention on the poorer health outcomes and underserved healthcare needs that LGBTQ2S+ people experience.
In healthcare settings, LGBTQ2S+ people are more likely to not receive appropriate healthcare and experience discrimination and harassment. Barriers to accessing healthcare bring harmful experiences for LGBTQ2S+ people. These experiences can have detrimental effects, including decreasing the likelihood of seeking healthcare in the future, consequently leading to poorer health outcomes. This is a vicious circle that continues due to the lack of attention on the poorer health outcomes and underserved healthcare needs that LGBTQ2S+ people experience.
What are some of the common barriers in LGBTQ2S+ healthcare?
There are multiple unsolved barriers for LGBTQ2S+ people to access healthcare and here we touch on some examples. It is especially important to acknowledge that these barriers can be further exacerbated by a number of factors, including the current COVID-19 pandemic, where, as an example, transgender people have been found to face unprecedented and enlarged healthcare disparities.
Firstly, there are limited numbers of healthcare staff trained to deliver healthcare that recognizes the needs of the LGBTQ2S+ people. Considering the risks of facing discrimination, LGBTQ2S+ people could hesitate to disclose information such as sexual orientation and how they identity to healthcare staff. This makes it difficult for healthcare personnel to appreciate the specific needs of the patient and to provide the most appropriate and holistic care.
Secondly, The LGBTQ2S+ community continues to face severe inequalities in their access and provision of care, which is closely linked to governmental policy. Most recently, the revised US Affordable Care Act has narrowed the definition of sex discrimination to the extent that it omits protections for transgender people in the US.
Thirdly, LGBTQ2S+ people can also experience discrimination and harassment in the workplace. LGBTQ2S+ people are more likely to have a lower income, which can be a financial pressure and barrier to LGBTQ2S+ people accessing and using health services.
How can we remove the barriers in the future?
Researchers have previously presented an LGBTQ2S+ Health Equity Promotion Model, guiding LGBTQ2S+ people to consider both positive and negative health-related circumstances to reach full psychological and physical health potentials. But more research and work is needed to involve LGBTQ2S+ people in guiding the research agenda to promote the recognition of specific healthcare needs, whilst respecting the differences amongst the community.
Significant efforts need to be made to reduce health disparities and remove barriers to healthcare. Society should work together to promote healthcare equity, address and prevent LGBTQ2S+ poorer health outcomes, support LGBTQ2S+ people to access safe and inclusive healthcare, and work to eliminate healthcare disparities. It is essential to translate negative research findings in this context into reformative and progressive practices.