On Tuesday, June 19th, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published their Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Issues Coordinating Committee Report, which detailed their successes of the past year and goals for the coming one. In 2011 they were successful in advancing the health and wellness of the LGBT community in several fields. HHS has made concerted efforts to include sexual orientation and gender identity in their research and data collection and commissioned a report by the National Institute of Health (NIH) on the state of research and science regarding the health needs of LGBT people. Also, for the first time, a formal group was established to examine scientific literature on LGBT health. The NIH, along with several other organizations, has released funding opportunities focused on LGBT community health organizations.
In regards to LGBT children and families, the HHS worked to encourage welfare agencies, foster and adoptive parents, etc… to ensure that LGBT youth are protected and supported when in foster care. They also issued guidance that states should have the flexibility to extend protection of assets given to married individuals to same-sex domestic partners and that rights should be equal in terms of having a representative who can make medical decisions on behalf of a hospital patient.
HHS also made progress in increasing cultural competency throughout the health care industry. A large grant was given to more than 8,500 community health centers for training on improving the health of LGBT populations. The National Health Service Corps also provided an introduction to culturally competent care and a focus on strategies to ensure better service to the LGBT community. The Center for Abuse Treatment released a publication that informs administrators and clinicians about diagnosis and treatment approaches that ensures the development and enhancement of LGBT-sensitive programs.
The Family Violence Prevention and Services Program published funding opportunities worth $18 million for shelter services for homeless and runaway youth. All applicants for this funding were required to show their ability to adequately train staff on LGBT youth issues and prohibit any harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The HHS held workshops at the first ever White House Conference on LGBT Health and updated its health center program application to include LGBT in populations served. There were also ten grants that focus specifically on LGBT youth suicide prevention. HHS also created the first-ever training on supporting the resettlement of LGBT refugees.
The Department of HHS has also laid out several objectives to continue this progress through 2012. They are working with NIH to identify gaps in LGBT biomedical research. Additionally, several grants are being offered to build the community health initiatives that have begun. Some will focus on increasing care and awareness of HIV status in transgender colored women, others on innovative ways to reduce obesity in lesbian and bisexual women and still more on assessing the impact that chronic disease prevention programs have on LGBT communities.
The Center for Disease Control is going to release data on sexual violence and intimate partner violence by sexual orientation, and the FDA is planning on launching an advertising campaign focused on youth, specifically LGBT youth, who have a high prevalence of tobacco use. There will also be continued efforts to ensure that primary care practitioners and behavioral health professionals are able to treat their LGBT clients in a culturally competent manner. In addition, guidelines are going to be further established to ensure that programs for runaway and homeless youth are inclusive of and non-discriminatory on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Take Action: It is vital that we share news of the important progress the Department of Health and Human Services has made. Say “Thank you!” to Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelious for all of her hard work this past year, and encourage her to keep up the good work in advancing LGBT health initiatives, as well as the cultural competency of health providers. Send Secretary Sebelious a letter to express your appreciation and show your support for her groundbreaking progress!