Monday, March 30, 2009

Please Consider Justice and Inclusivity for ALL Populations As You Reform Health Care

Dear President Obama,

Please Consider Justice and Inclusivity for ALL Populations As You Reform Health Care

As LGBT Illinoisans, we know your commitment to this cause. Your record in support of civil rights for all and health care reform speaks for itself. You want a more inclusive, healthier world with less health disparities and stronger community health. A world where lesbian and bisexual women do not suffer from disproportionately high rates of smoking, alcohol use, obesity, and lack of insurance that place them at higher risk for breast cancer, heart disease, diabetes, depression, addiction, and other chronic, life-threatening illnesses. A world where gay and bisexual men do not suffer from disproportionately high rates of psycho-emotional disorders, addictions, and (most notably) HIV/AIDS. A world where transgender folks are able to be healthy and live free from violence.

With National LGBT Health Awareness Week just past, March 9-14, 2009, and health care reform gaining momentum, we must remember some basic priorities.

The LGBT population must be included in health care reform. When considering the topic of health care reform, you must not ignore the great social injustice being suffered by the groups of greatest health disparity. Therefore, I call on you to ensure that any healthcare reform be inclusive of LGBT folks. For the past eight years, we have had to be present, but invisible in the national health conversation.

By making health care reform inclusive of the LGBT community, healthcare settings could become safe, helpful places rather than venues of shame, stigma, and prejudice. Preventative practices and messages would be appropriate and inclusive, reducing the cost of reactionary treatment to preventable disease. We will not have to use the emergency room as our primary health care provider as so many of us without insurance are forced to do. Instead, we will know that providers have knowledge about our true risks, best practices for how to care for us, and how to be respectful of our families and identities.

The LGBT population must be included in data collection – so that we can understand the truths of our bodies and lives. The need for accurate, inclusive data is two-fold: 1) if we don’t know what is wrong in our community, we can’t fix it and 2) data is the basis for all federal support and funding for health initiatives. Our national surveys don’t include sexual orientation and gender identity questions. We need these tools to accurately understand what problems all of us face so we can solve them. Furthermore, without data about health issues in our population, the LGBT population is consistently overlooked by federal programs.

By making health care reform and research LGBT-inclusive, we will be able to better care for the entire community. These reforms will affect the most vulnerable members of our community – those who can’t choose a health care provider based on what their website profile says, but who delay care until crisis strikes. If health care reform is LGBT-inclusive, our doctors, nurses and staffs will be better able to care for all of their patients and our nation’s health will improve.

Michael C. Cook
President and CEO
Howard Brown Health Center

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