10 September 2012 ~ 0 Comments

Missouri Foundation for Health Paves the Way for LGBT Health Equity

Author: dunawaya

By Meghan Garvey, SAGE Metro St. Louis, Social Work Intern

Over the past year there have been many positive strides to address issues related to health disparities and access to care for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Last month, the Missouri Foundation for Health gave us another effort to celebrate with the August 2012 edition of their Health Equity Series entitled, Responding to LGBT Health Disparities. This report is an incredible asset to health service providers and LGBT advocacy organizations across the state, as it is the first of its’ kind to provide a comprehensive assessment of the experiences of the LGBT population in the health care system of Missouri and the United States at large. Responding to LGBT Health Disparities presents the most recent data trends that concretely identify the numerous health disparities experienced by the LGBT population. Having such data serves as incredible evidence that can guide the most efficient efforts to decrease barriers to health care services and increase health promotion for LGBT Missourians.

A few disparities highlighted by this report include:

  • LGBT adults in Missouri are 1.5 times more likely to be uninsured than their non-LGBT peers, and two times as likely to go without critical health care services as their non-LGBT peers.
  • Local and national data has demonstrated that LGBT individuals are disproportionally unlikely to undergo standard preventive cancer screenings. Women who have sex with women have been found least likely to have regular Pap smears, mammograms and colorectal screenings. For instance, only 38.3 percent of Lesbian females reported having a Pap smear in the past year, as compared to 66.2 percent of heterosexual females. Men who have sex with men are also least likely to receive age-appropriate exams for anal cancers and anal papilloma. More than 80 percent of gay men over the age of 20 have not received screenings for HPV or anal cancer, while 50 percent of gay and bisexual men have not received colorectal cancer screenings. Transgender individuals are least likely to receive cancer screenings appropriate for their sex, and regularly experience delayed diagnoses and treatment for ovarian, uterine, prostate, and breast cancer. Overall, these disparities only increase for sexual and/or gender minority individuals who are also racial and/or ethnic minorities.
  • LGBT individuals are more likely to engage in negative health behaviors to alleviate stress, such as cigarette smoking, binge drinking, illicit drug use, and risky sexual behaviors. In Missouri, 36 percent of LGBT individuals smoke cigarettes daily, as compared to 22 percent of their non-LGBT peers. National rates of cigarette smoking are generally higher for transgender individuals who have been victims of bias-related physical violence (40 percent) or sexual violence (45 percent). This report notes that bisexual individuals are at high risk for negative health behaviors, citing that bisexual women are nine times as likely to use illicit drugs as compared to heterosexual women while almost 80 percent of men who have sex with men never use condoms when performing oral sex.

And these are just a few of the striking statistics presented in Responding to LGBT Health Disparities. As an advocacy organization dedicated to promoting well-being of LGBT individuals across the lifespan, SAGE is excited for the ways this work can help us to tailor our health promotion and cultural competency programs to best meet the needs of the LGBT community of Missouri. We hope you will take a chance to read this incredible work. Bravo MFH for advocating high-quality health care for all Missourians!

Meghan Garvey is a social work intern with SAGE Metro St. Louis. She is pursuing her MSW at the Brown School of Social Work, Washington University in St. Louis. SAGE Metro St. Louis is a nonprofit that strives to enhance the quality of life of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender older adults through service, advocacy and community awareness.

The opinions and views expressed in this blog and/or comments are those of the author(s) and do not reflect any position of the Center or the University.

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