Week One, Like a Hurricane – But In a Good Way

reginaby Regina R. Washington, DrPH, Director, LGBT HealthLink at CenterLink

Hi there! My name is Regina.  My first week with LGBT HealthLink at CenterLink has been amazing.  Prior to joining LGBT HealthLink, I searched my heart for answers for my next career step.  I successfully met the challenges of an executive public health administrator for a state health department and enjoyed it; I have served as an assistant professor to interface public health with pharmacy, which I grew professionally.  My heart revealed that I need a combination of the two experiences, that will allow me to work in my passion of promoting healthy lifestyles, eliminating cancer health disparities and working with the vulnerable populations.  Serving as the Director of LGBT HealthLink will provide that professional combination.

FTLA Beach

My first few days in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida has been like a hurricane, but in a positive way.  Ordinarily, November is a chilly and sometimes snowy month, not in Florida.  I could get used to this weather!  The LGBT HealthLink and CenterLink staff have been so welcoming and have made my “on boarding” process very smooth.  My work with LGBT HealthLink will center around tobacco-related and cancer health disparities.  It will take a village to address the tobacco-related and cancer health disparities issues in the LGBT communities, because we will be shifting the culture toward better quality of life, better access to culturally competent health care, and an increased awareness of educational materials and away from high risk health behaviors of smoking, unprotected sex, poor nutrition, and physical inactivity.

How strong is your fight?  The fight for life and pursuit of happiness is compromised by high risk health behaviors, lifestyle choices, and intentional marketing targeting the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communities.  The actual leading causes of death and disease (tobacco use, poor eating habits, and physical inactivity) in the United States are preventable!  Tobacco use, which studies have shown to be linked to cancer, kills more Americans than suicide, AIDS, homicides, car accidents, and alcohol in one year.1  According to new data collected by the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) LGB adults, including all races and ethnicities, are more likely to smoke tobacco compared to heterosexual/straight individuals.2 Also, LGBT people are less likely to have health insurance, which may negatively affect access to tobacco cessation treatments, including counseling and medication. Gay, bisexual, and transgender men are 20% less likely than heterosexual/straight men to be aware of smoking quitlines.3

LGBT individuals carry a disproportionate burden of tobacco-related disease, such as Health-Starts-Here-3-2016-printercancer.  Health disparities is a term used to describe the disproportionate burden of disease, injury, death, access to health care services, and other adverse conditions.4 For this reason, the needs of LGBT individuals should be considered in efforts to eliminate health disparities.  One suggested effort to improve the health of the entire community is to provide cultural competency training to health providers.  LGBT HealthLink provides resources to address the health disparities and improve health equity related to LGBT communities.  Strengthen your fight for life and pursuit of happiness… join  HealthLink. Click here to connect and Be One of Us!

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