LGBT MONTH, June 2016
Dr. Robert McKenna has been a Public Health professional for more than 20 years. Currently, he serves as a Senior Public Health Advisor with the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Office of Regional Operations (Region 3), and for the last 15 years has been a Senior Public Health Practice Professor at Arcadia University.
Thank you, Danya Institute, for inviting me to join you in celebrating National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month, when we can all take pride in victories that have affirmed freedom and fairness for LGBT people. More than 90 victories for LGBT people have occurred under the current President’s administration; the list is available here. Highlights include the U.S. Supreme Court striking down the Defense of Marriage Act and allowing same-sex couples to be married across the U.S.; implementing workplace protections for LBGT people; availing benefits under the Family and Medical Leave Act regardless of state residence to same-sex married people; ensuring equal access to safe and supportive housing; and increasing efforts to ensure access to health care, including implementation of the Affordable Care Act. We still have much work to do, though, to support the physical, mental, and behavioral health of LGBT people, as indicated in Healthy People 2020 (available here), which shows:
• LGBT youth are 2 to 3 times more likely to attempt suicide;
• LGBT youth are more likely to be homeless;
• Lesbians are less likely to get preventive services for cancer;
• Gay men are at higher risk of HIV and other STDs, especially in communities of color;
• Lesbians and bisexual females are more likely to be overweight or obese;
• Transgender individuals have a high prevalence of HIV/STDs, victimization, mental health issues, and suicide and are less likely to have health insurance than heterosexual or LGB individuals;
• Elderly LGBT individuals face additional barriers to health because of isolation and a lack of social services and culturally competent providers; and
• LGBT populations have the highest rates of tobacco, alcohol, and other drug use.
(Source: Healthy People 2020, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Health)
Strategies to improve LGBT health may be legal, physical, fiscal, environmental, medical, intellectual, social, spiritual, or any other type of factor that affects our ability to live healthy lives. The health of any community affects the health of all communities, and improvements can result in reduced disease, increased well-being, reduced health care costs, and increased longevity – for everyone. I encourage us all to identify what role we each can play in better addressing LGBT health needs and reducing LGBT health disparities. THAT would be something for which we could really be proud!