Pennsylvania LGBT Health Disparities Presented at SOPHE

AdrianSby Adrian Shanker, Executive Director, Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center, Allentown, PA

Last May, the Division of Tobacco Prevention & Control at the Pennsylvania Department of Health collaborated with Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center (Allentown) and LGBT Center of Central PA (Harrisburg) on a pilot project to administer comprehensive LGBT wellness needs assessments in our respective regions in Pennsylvania. With technical assistance from LGBT Healthlink, this pilot was tremendously successful. Each region received more than 600 qualified responses in less than three weeks and we were left with significant data to use as a roadmap for reducing health disparities affecting the LGBT community in our regions.

Today, I’m at the Society for Public Health Educators Conference in Charlotte, NC along with Sue McLain from the PA Department of Health to co-present a poster about the collaborative process and the findings from our needs assessments in the Lehigh Valley and Central Pennsylvania.



The data we collected reported significant challenges for the health of our community. For example, 37% of participants in the Lehigh Valley and 43.1% in Central PA reported tobacco use in the past year. One in ten participants said they had a previous negative experience with a healthcare provider because of their LGBT status and one in four said they feared going to a doctor as a result.

We also identified some great opportunities. More than half of the survey participants strongly or somewhat agreed that pride celebrations should be smoke-free events. And LGBTQA smokers overwhelmingly wanted to quit (>90%).  More than 90% of the participants surveyed had health insurance, and nearly two-thirds said they were interested in healthy eating and active living strategies.

These needs assessments were successful because of the collaboration between our state department of health and LGBT community-based organizations. As a result of the successful approach, needs assessments are now being administered in the remaining regions in Pennsylvania, which will allow for both regional and statewide LGBT data. This collaborative model works, and we’re here at SOPHE to talk about why it works.


Adrian Shanker can be contacted at:


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