Addressing Health Disparities in the LGBTQ+ Community

How can seniors in the LGBTQ+ community trust that healthcare providers and allied professionals will give them culturally competent care? That’s been a real concern for decades because very few large-scale, healthcare-related studies have focused on the needs of LGBTQ+ seniors. It’s one example of how social inequality translates directly to quality of care and quality of life.

“Members of the LGBT community are at increased risk for a number of health threats when compared to their heterosexual peers,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some of these disparities “are associated with social and structural inequities, such as the stigma and discrimination that LGBT populations experience.”

Fortunately, we’re seeing more research being conducted, and actions being taken, to address these inequalities and ensure LGBTQ+ seniors can enjoy the same opportunities to age well that others may take for granted. For example, Vanderbilt University is conducting the first long-term study of older LGBTQ+ people in the South.

“Having a healthcare provider that you view as LGBT-affirming actually shapes your healthcare experience,” said Tara McKay, assistant professor of medicine, health, and society at Vanderbilt. “We know that this age group is hesitant to go to see a doctor. They have either personally experienced or have heard about other people’s experiences of discrimination from providers. This, on average, keeps them home longer with an illness before they seek help—making the situation worse.”

At Healthy People 2030, a project of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, one of the research goals is to increase the number of national surveys that collect data on LGBTQ populations. “Lesbian, gay, and bisexual people have specific health-related challenges and disparities—and accurate data is key to identifying how to meet their health needs. But only a few national [healthcare-related] surveys include questions on sexual orientation,” says the Healthy People 2030 website. “Adding questions about sexual orientation to more surveys can help inform health promotion strategies for these groups.”

Inclusive care is proven to work. Early results from part of the Vanderbilt study noted, “Compared to participants reporting a usual source of care that is not affirming, participants with an LGBTQ+ affirming provider are more likely to have ever and recently received several types of preventative care, including routine checkups, colorectal cancer screenings, flu shot, and HIV test. Access to an LGBTQ+ affirming provider is also associated with better management of mental health conditions and a lower level of cognitive impairment.”

Here at Windward, we believe firmly in inclusive care, and we customize our care to each individual’s needs and preferences. We’re proud of our SAGECare certification at the silver level—training that demonstrates our commitment to inclusive care. Please contact us if you would like to learn more about our home care, care management, or home health services.