by: Erin Curran
Manager-Education, Quality Research
Interim Manager-Refugee Health and Interpreter Services
Center for Diversity and Cultural Competence
Different populations of people often times have different health care needs. A 2012 report by the Missouri Foundation for Health identified lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Missourians as a population that experiences poorer health outcomes than the general population.
Personally, I’ve heard stories from LGBT people about the negative experiences they have encountered in health care settings; discrimination from providers, denied visitation rights, and a breakdown in cultural understanding have led LGBT Missourians down a path of negative health outcomes: until now.
Barnes-Jewish Hospital commits itself to making sure that all populations are treated with equity and respect. Having teamed up with the regions LGBT community, Barnes-Jewish Hospital was able to identify and address specific issues unique to this population. Now, we are leading the region on addressing these concerns. Identified in 2014 as a “Leader in LGBT Health” by the country’s largest LGBT advocacy organization, the Human Rights Campaign, Barnes-Jewish Hospital is leading the way in providing education and a welcoming space for LGBT Missourians.
To be a leader, Barnes-Jewish Hospital had to address policy barriers and provide education to its employees on LGBT health disparities. Time and time again we hear that LGBT Missourians are more likely to delay going to a doctor – or to seek out health care in general – out of fear of discrimination. Unfortunately, in most parts of Missouri, LGBT Missourians can be fired from their job, denied access to housing, and public accommodations, simply because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. Because of the lack of state protections, Barnes-Jewish Hospital created its own environment of inclusion that started by addressing discrimination for all of its patients and employees.
To provide the best care and health outcomes for any population, it’s important that health care providers understand the unique needs and disparities found within differing populations – herein lies part of the problem. The average medical student spends fewer than 5 hours learning about LGBT health issues, and the majority of that time is dedicated to HIV/AIDS. At Barnes-Jewish Hospital our health care providers are trained in serving the LGBT community as part of the education we provide to our employees.
In the end, it is up to health professionals and providers to make sure that our health facilities are LGBT welcoming. I am proud of Barnes-Jewish Hospital for taking a lead in LGBT health.