Are we at the tipping point in LGBT Health?

by Emilia Dunham

Reporting from the Trans Health Summit in San Francisco

We all know that in our community’s history has experienced severe health disparities compared to the general population.  Rob Garofalo of Chicago’s Howard Brown University wraps up the Summit with a summary of the LGBT IOM Health Report and what this could mean for LGBT populations.  Rob was on the committee developing this report.

With all these incredibly supportive reports and recommendations to include LGBT populations, could this mean that these amazing recommendations could still be implemented and have a tremendous ripple effect to heal the health wounds in this community with Health People 2020 and now the LGBT IOM Health Report.

So what is changing?

  • HHS is including gender identity in its non-discrimination plan, hospital visitation policy and approach to including LGBT persons in all policy decisions
  • AMA’s LGBT Advisory Panel, non-discrimination policy, support of DADT, recommendations to include LGBT healthcare
  • HRC and other organizations are holding organizations, hospitals and insurers accountable to fully include LGBT populations.
  • There are more RFAs and research including, and specific, to LGBT populations.
  • WPATH is revising its standards of transgender health care

We are coming out of a dark place in LGBT health, but with the number of organizations (government, local, private, etc) coming on board to support LGBT inclusive health policies, research and care is considerable.

But what do you think?

Cross-posting · IOM

NIH Director Statement: IOM report and research on LGBT populations

Dr. Francis Collins, NIH Director

Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.

Director, National Institutes of Health

(Crossposted from NIH website)

“I want to thank the Institute of Medicine (IOM) for conducting this important study on the state of the science on the health of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) populations. This report, which was done at the request of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is the first comprehensive overview of health-related research in this area. The report makes it clear that there are significant gaps in our understanding of the health issues confronting LGBT people. Effective methods for systematic collection of data from research participants about sexual orientation or gender identity are needed, and are not currently available. In response, NIH will collaborate with the National Center for Health Statistics, a component of CDC, to address and improve the methodology for collecting survey data on sexual orientation and gender identity. I have asked the NIH LGBT research coordinating committee to consider the report’s recommendations carefully, and to suggest strategies for how the NIH Institutes and Centers can support research to generate the knowledge base needed to promote the health of the LGBT community. NIH is committed to research that will benefit and improve the health of all people. Therefore, we appreciate this thoughtful report with its clear delineation of areas where there is inadequate data.”

Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.
Director, National Institutes of Health


Is This The Biggest 48 Hours Ever for LGBT Health? Part 2: HHS Recommendations to Improve the Health of LGBT Communities

by Emilia Dunham

Program Associate

This has been such a huge week for LGBT health as you probably know!

Some tremendous news that came from today, the last day of LGBT Health Awareness week, was the release of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ recommendations: “Actions to Improve the Health and Well-Being of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Communities.”

These recommendations are a summary of the efforts taken by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to improve the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, as well as recommendations for future action. The recommendations were developed in response to the Presidential Memorandum on Hospital Visitation, which, in addition to addressing the rights of patients to designate visitors regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, directed the Secretary to explore additional steps HHS could take to improve the lives of LGBT people.

These recommendations come after the recognition we are all aware of that LGBT people have been denied the compassionate services they deserve. That is now changing. HHS continues to make significant progress toward protecting the rights of every American to access quality care, recognizing that diverse populations have distinctive needs. Safeguarding the health and well-being of all Americans requires a commitment to treating all people with respect while being sensitive to their differences.

Check out the link for amazing recommendations of HHS:

These actions address a number of health disparities affecting our community including the expansion of their Equal Employment Opportunity Policy, Non-discrimination Policy, Hospital Visitation rights, as well committees established to identify and remedy gaps in LGBT health, data collection programs and policies. These actions also specifically target key areas of disparities including HIV/AIDS, tobacco prevalence, bullying, adoption, aging and homelessness to name a few. We may be including in more grant opportunities and all grantees of HHS could have LGBT cultural competency in the future! With the follow-through of these recommendations, unprecedented in the history of LGBT health, our community’s health, wellbeing and livelihood will be dramatically changed for the better.

This is just the tip of the iceberg so we urge you to check out these recommendations to see how these can affect you, your families, your programs and our communities.


Why the IOM report is a healthy change for LGBTs: Op-Ed on IOM Report on LGBT Health

Francisco Buchting

by Francisco Buchting

Network Steering Committee Chair

Cross-posted op-ed on About the Institute of Medicine Report on LGBT Health

Yesterday, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released its long-awaited report on what researchers know about the health of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans.

But more studies are needed, because we don’t know enough about key segments of our overlapping communities and this puts LGBT health at risk.

And to conduct more studies, researchers need funding.

This report marks a turning point in the struggle to address health inequalities of this enormously diverse minority group. Among the findings from the report: LGBT people experience significant disparities in access to care, tobacco, mental health, HIV, addictions, suicide; there are other health areas, such as cancer, where data indicate that there may be disparities, but more studies are needed; and unfortunately, there is very little data on, for example,  LGBT communities of color and transgender people.

We know, for example, that LGBT people smoke at rates almost 50% to 200% higher than the rest of the population –  the American Cancer Society indicating that over 30,000 LGBT people die each year of tobacco-related diseases. Yet LGBT health continues to be forced to compete with a wide range of other stakeholders for funding.

At a minimum, the IOM report will give us all an opportunity to change the local, state, and national dialogue around LGBT health. Previously, the health of LGBT people was barely addressed by either government or private funders of public health and research programs.

Why? Because, the funders said, there was a lack of evidence or data to justify the targeting or even the inclusion of LGBT people in competitive funding opportunities.

Obtaining funding to address LGBT health issues had therefore become a vicious cycle where “not enough evidence or data to justify targeted funding” has been used as a justification to deny targeted funds to actually collect data.

This IOM report will hopefully start to change that.

When it comes to health research and public health funding priorities, if one is not counted one does not exist. The IOM report will help remind private and government funders of health research that LGBT individuals have been counted, that we exist, and that we have significant health needs not being adequately addressed – and, in many cases, that are being ignored – in the face of mounting evidence.

The challenge is up to each of us to make the most of this opportunity to help ensure health equity for all LGBT people and communities.

Dr. Francisco O. Buchting is a member of the National Cancer Institute’s Tobacco Research Network on Disparities (TReND) and chair of the steering committee for The Network for LGBT Health Equity at The Fenway Institute.

Is This The Biggest 48 Hrs Ever for LGBT Health?

Scout, Ph.D., Network Director
Director, Network for LGBT Health Equity
The Fenway Institute, Boston, MA
Report issued by Institute of Medicine on March 31, 2011.

Today at 11 am sharp the feds released the long awaited Institute of Medicine Report (IOM) on LGBT Health, or as we’re calling it in Twitterland #LGBTIOM. This report finally brings the often forgotten subject of LGBT health firmly into the light of day. Changes may or may not come from it, but we will never have to work as hard again to prove LGBT health disparities exist. Now we can just say, read all about it.

I waited over my computer till 11 am thinking I was itching to read every inch of the tome. But apparently what I was really more interested in was, how much press was this getting? Luckily my home organization, The Fenway Institute, brought in some expert help to make sure press was gotten, the great folk at Renna Communications. Two of our scientists, including one of my mentors, Judy Bradford, helped write the book, so it’s good to get that news out. See our special page on it here.

But it’s not all about press, first step was scan the executive summary to see what it said. Nice… it’s got lots of strong language saying collect LGBT data, enhance LGBT research, pay special attention to the subsets of LGBT, like LGBT of color, transgender people, bisexuals, etc. Love all that. See the IOM info and the short report summary here.

Now onto the press, here’s just some of the coverage we know about so far: Reuters Advocate Bay Windows DC Metro Weekly CNN Washington Blade LA Times Bilerico What else? Send us a link at if you see it other places.

Story about Tammy Baldwin planning to re-introducing her LGBT health bill tomorrow.

And the Associated Press put out something that’s been picked up by lots of places, USAToday, etc.

There’s also our very own Network Steering Committee member Francisco Buchting’s Op-ed in

But the news doesn’t stop there, it was also announced at the press conference that NIH appointed an LGBT research liaison!! Love that, because we’ve been complaining to them for a while that their reception to LGBT research has been lukewarm at best. (See our testimony to them here.)

But wait, there’s more… tomorrow, did you catch that it looks like Rep. Tammy Baldwin might re-introduce her well-thought out bill on LGBT health? Let’s hope that comes through, maybe it can ride some of this momentum and pass.

And last, and certainly not least, tomorrow at 1:30 HHS officials are inviting insiders and out to a call ostensibly for LGBT health week, but rumor is it’ll be more than good tidings. *rubs hands* I can’t wait.

Oh, and as the cherry on our 48 hour LGBT health sundae, here’s Secty. Sebelius’ memo on the IOM release

Yes, let the press roll on. Let the bloggers get on the train, retweet it yourself, post it on Facebook, let LGBT health have it’s day in the sun. It is about time.

Continue reading “Is This The Biggest 48 Hrs Ever for LGBT Health?”


Closing Gaps in Healthcare for Our Community: Op-Ed on IOM Report on LGBT Health

by Scout, PhD
Network Director
Op-ed by Scout Crossposted from the Washington Blade: “Closing Gaps in Healthcare for Our Community“, March 31, 2011

“Don’t ever call an ambulance for me. I don’t care if I get hit by a car, let me die on the street. Just do not call an ambulance,” Arlene admonished me. I’d heard the horror story about the last time she went to a hospital so I couldn’t really blame her, but still, it was sad. No one should fear the medical system. But Arlene, like many other transgender people, has a learned and warranted fear of the medical system. Yet fear of the medical system isn’t the only problem out there.

As a cultural competency trainer, I know the stats all too well. Doctors and nurses feel free to openly express their personal disdain for LGBT people. Far from being a helping profession for us, accessing healthcare can be a minefield where political ideologies and personal prejudices trump the Hippocratic oath.

And while discrimination can be deadly, it is the more often the widespread ignorance that more often hurts us. Does a doctor know how to prescribe hormones for a transgender person? Have intake forms that don’t alienate LGBT people by asking about marriage? Have trained front-line staff who know to treat all with respect? Do the staff understand what health problems are more common for LGBT people? Do health care providers understand how to talk to us without stumbling and steering awkwardly clear of any issues of sexual orientation or gender identity? Lots of questions. And our community deserves not answers but solutions.

Well, I’m happy to say that this week the federal government made a major stride in both acknowledging and prioritizing LGBT health disparities. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released the historic Institute of Medicine Report on LGBT Health. The Institute of Medicine imprimatur carries the highest regard among health professionals, so the mere existence of this report is a great step forward in prioritizing our health disparities. The report reviews the highest level of science available about our health disparities and makes strong suggestions for action at every level.

One of the most important suggestions is the simplest, count us. When the Census or health surveys don’t ask who is LGBT, it’s like locking us in the closet. It effectively hides our lives and all evidence of the disparities we struggle against. This is one simple step that LGBT advocates have been asking for ages and it is too long overdue.

I applaud the National Institutes of Health for commissioning this prestigious and comprehensive study, for not leaving transgender people behind, for taking due care to ferret out as much information as possible on LGBT communities of color. Each of these actions is a great stride. As the director of the Network for LGBT Health Equity I’ve been advocating for LGBT inclusion in health policy for many years, so trust me when I say, this is a truly historic moment.

But there is much to do. I think of my vulnerable young queer nephew and cousin. I don’t want them to take the path I did, and try to commit suicide. But I can see their isolation, I know how they struggle to find people who accept them. It’s going to take a lot to change their reality. So, at the end of the day we must remember this Institute of Medicine Report on LGBT health is just a book. The real change will come when federal officials, policymakers and medical providers take this book off their shelf and turn it into action. Action that cannot come a moment too soon.

Scout is the director of the Network for LGBT Health Equity at The Fenway Institute. A longtime LGBT activist, Scout is an openly transgender person living in a small town in Rhode Island and struggling to get his three kids through the trials of being a teenager.