Dear HRSA: Thank you.


By Scout
Director, Network for LGBT Health Equity
At The Fenway Institute
Reporting from the National Coalition for LGBT Health Meeting

What a contrast

Dr. Wakefield, the HRSA Administrator, flanked by her transgender friends, JoAnne Keatley and Scout.

Just as we deliver that excellent letter from Dr. Matthews talking about the chilly climate at NIH for LGBT research, we welcome Dr. Mary Wakefield, the administrator at Health Resources and Services Administration (they roughly are in charge of healthcare at HHS) to give the closing speech for the National Coalition for LGBT Health Meeting. As Secretary Sebelius said at the opening, this really was a star studded set of guests this year, and it’s a great testament to all of our policy work and the exceptional planning work of the Coalition staff. Kudos to Hutson Innis and everyone there on a great conference! Well Dr. Wakefield really ended it with a bang, romping through a list of LGBT inclusions that looked like a primer for how to eliminate LGBT disparities.

HRSA’s LGBT Health Activity

Below are just some of the things HRSA has been doing to address LGBT health discrimination and disparities. As Dr. Wakefield pointed out, the first step in all of this was having a senior advisor who was openly lesbian. Deep thanks to our friend, Tina Cheatham. In Dr. Wakefield’s own words, “HRSA’s work in LGBT health is in good hands because of Tina’s diligence.”

  • Out of 129 new awards to promote development of new federally qualified health centers, two went to LGBT organizations, the excellent Mazzoni Center and my alma mater, AIDS Foundation of Chicago
  • They’ve created an internal LGBT task force, working on data, cultural competency and funding.
  • They’ve held a series of community input meetings, helping them come up with such good ideas as – go recruit students from LGBT health student groups
  • They’ve got a coming community listening meeting on LGBT cultural competency work
  • They’ve done a flagship award of $250k (this year) to create LGBT cultural competency training resources for providers. It went to some group called… let me look it up, oh yeah, The Fenway Institute. And better yet, it might be stretch out for more years.
  • They just offered LGBT cultural competency training to their National Health Service Corps (NHSC). (Wait, we helped run that!) And they’ll have the initial training on file, so any of the 9,000 providers in NHSC can take it later for continuing education credit. (and after Liz from the National LGBT Cancer Network asked, they promised to explore how it’s possible to strongly encourage this training for the full corps)
  • They’ve been collecting LGBT data for HIV work since 2000, and after community input in 2005, they even collect transgender data by MTF and FTM vectors!
  • They’ve examined and helped ensure their internal working environment was positive for LGBT employees to promote leadership (and, I know, from a friend of mine, that this has made changes)
  • They are asking for LGBT cultural competency plans in their routine funding of health centers
  • They’ve included a special LGBT bullying section on their anti-bullying website (kudo’s to them too, because they already had this about two years ago when we first went to meet with them). And now, they’re taking leadership on the larger HHS and beyond anti-bullying work that’s been spurred from the attention to LGBT suicides.

And frankly, there’s lots more, but because I seem to have lost my notes, that’s all I can remember. As JoAnne Keatley from the UCSF Center of Excellence in Transgender Health said as were commenting at the end, the truth is, this still isn’t enough. There’s still much to be done, especially with cultural competence in caring for trans communities. But we all bow to this great progress, JoAnne and I were happy to get our picture with Dr. Wakefield and I’m sure even if I’m missing a few of the details by now you get the message: Dear HRSA, thank you.


Published by Dr. Scout

Vegetarian biking small town transgender father of 3 feisty teens in real life, Director of Network for LGBT Health Equity in pro life.

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