Top Doctor Weighs in On Today’s Biggest LGBTQ Health Challenges

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2020 has been one for the books when it comes to just how drastic everything shifted for us across the world due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

COVID has bled into many industries and shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. The world of healthcare, especially for our community, looks to have gotten a bit more challenging to navigate as a result according to Matt Bryan, MD and Associate Medical Director of LGBTQ Health at Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City. 

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Matt chatted with us at Instinct about that as well as a myriad of other health factors our community is dealing with today. This is a crucial read for anyone who has been battling obstacles related to LGBTQ discrimination in the healthcare industry.

What do you think is the biggest health challenges facing the LGBTQ community today?

I think the biggest health challenge faced by LGBTQ folks today is access to quality care.  This community faces barriers to receiving care that go beyond the healthcare setting.  Higher unemployment rates, higher rates of homelessness, lower rates of insurance coverage all make it harder to even schedule an appointment to see a healthcare professional. 

Also, higher rates of mental health issues such as suicidality, depression, anxiety and PTSD contribute to difficulty following up regularly with providers.  Even if a person does have access to a provider, many providers don’t feel comfortable or are not competent in managing common LGBTQ issues, such as STI screening and treatment, HIV prevention medication, and transgender hormone treatment.  All of this contributes to an overall lack of access to quality care. 

Do you think any of these have spiked or lowered since COVID began?

Let’s look at this with a lens of intersectionality, or disparities that can overlap and compound on one another. We know that at baseline, LGBTQ folks already have multiple barriers, but when you add in factors related to COVID, the barriers increase and the disparities widen.  

LGBTQ people are known to experience discrimination when it comes to many things, healthcare included. What is your best advice for people to navigate going to the right doctors, hospitals, etc, who are LGBTQ friendly?

In a lot of places, this can be quite burdensome. I would start by reaching out to your insurance provider to see if they have a list of covered LGBTQ competent providers. Asking friends about their experiences with local providers can provide a first-hand account of affirming or harmful interactions. I find that word of mouth can be quite powerful. There are several online sites that you can utilize to search for LGBTQ competent providers.

Here are a couple that I find helpful.

GLMA – http://www.glma.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=Page.ViewPage&PageID=939

OutCare – https://www.outcarehealth.org/

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What about LGBTQ youth? The numbers are staggering in terms of how many of them are out there. What can we do as a society to minimize this number?

The answer is simple:  accept and love our kids. There is evidence that trans/nonbinary/gender nonconforming youth with strong family support were 82% less likely to attempt suicide than those without support.  Simply using their preferred name and pronoun reduces the risk of suicide by 56%.  Acceptance goes a long way, and it saves lives.

What do you think?