LGBT Inclusion and the Connection to Health
June is Pride Month, and for the first time, Napa County and several cities are flying the Rainbow Flag. Raising awareness and encouraging inclusiveness is the first step in improving health for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) population. It is estimated that 11,000 people in Napa County identify as LGBT.
LGBT individuals often face challenges and barriers to accessing needed health services and, as a result, can experience worse health outcomes. They are more likely to identify themselves in being in poor health than heterosexual individuals and face higher prevalence and earlier onset of disabilities. Other health concerns include HIV/AIDS, mental illness, substance use, and sexual and physical violence. LGBT populations are 2.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with mental health disorders than heterosexual individuals. Transgender individuals have up to 40% higher suicide attempts.
In addition to the higher rates of illness and health challenges, some LGBT individuals are more likely to experience challenges obtaining care, mainly due to lack of cultural competency or perceived stigma.
Healthcare organizations can address these disparities, first by creating an environment inclusive of LGBT people. Simple changes in forms, signage and office practices can make LGBT individuals feel welcome. Forms that gather data on sexual orientation and gender identity will allow healthcare providers to better understand these health disparities and how to prevent, screen and detect conditions earlier. For more information and resources, refer to the National LGBT Health Education Center.