Upon concluding the review process for our Mid-Missouri and Southeast Missouri hospitals, health advocates were faced with the challenge of sparking interest among rural hospital officials on a review of their LGBT welcoming policies. Knowing the formula for sparking interest among urban hospitals, we knew that rural outreach would be considerably different. Putting on our strategy caps, advocates came up with a road map to engage these hospitals.
One issue that we felt needed to be overcome was the assumption that LGBT health is not an issue in rural Missouri – quite the contrary. We know that LGBT folks exist and live in every county in Missouri and across the Nation and we know that they utilize health and social service facilities – just like any citizen. But, disproportionately sexual minorities experience poorer health outcomes than our heterosexual peers according to the Missouri Foundation for Health. Often times this is because of the invisibility LGBT rural folks feel within health and social service policies – it was our task to break our invisibility.
With this, advocates set out by utilizing the community, and the tools we learned from our outreach with urban hospitals. Through a series of strategic mailers that included a report of the hospitals LGBT welcoming policies as well as copies of local news articles that focused on LGBT health, advocates began to engage these officials.
In our outreach to rural hospital officials, advocates developed four points:
1. Create a sense of urgency – by highlighting local news articles that focus on LGBT health we were able to break our invisibility and create a sense of urgency. In developing these pieces, we also helped to start a community dialogue on LGBT health and the issues associated, including the lack of regional LGBT welcoming policies.
2. Highlight successes to create credibility– knowing this was the first time that these hospital officials would have likely been engaged by LGBT advocates, we wanted to create credibility from the begin by highlighting our past successes with urban hospitals.
3. Report along with methodology – to let officials know how we came to our conclusion on their LGBT welcoming policies, further establishing credibility.
4. Clear ask from the officials.
To review the packet of information sent to rural hospitals, please click here.
In the next case study, we will outline the work of the LGBT health advocates in outreaching to these officials along with lessons learned in moving forward with rural outreach on LGBT health.