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LGBT Health Disparities: Ending the Stigma

Experts say stigma and discrimination can contribute to poor health outcomes for LGBT individuals. (Guillaume Paumier/Flickr)
Experts say stigma and discrimination can contribute to poor health outcomes for LGBT individuals. (Guillaume Paumier/Flickr)
March 27, 2017

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- LGBTQ Ohioans have the same heath needs as anyone else but are said to be at greater risk for certain poor health outcomes. And experts say these disparities are not biological in nature.

It is National LGBT Health Awareness Week, and Julie Applegate, director of Equitas Health, explained that the stigma, discrimination and marginalization faced by members of the LGBTQ community can lead to higher rates of anxiety, depression, substance abuse, obesity and other serious health concerns.

She said both public policy and societal change are needed to eliminate barriers to care.

"We need to make sure that our LGBTQ community has access to health insurance,” Applegate said. “We need to know that there are health and social service providers who understand our unique needs and can provide us with culturally competent care. And we need a social environment that respects our dignity."

Events for National LGBT Health Awareness Week will be held around Ohio - including a workshop on Monday at the Equitas Health Columbus Medical Center with the goal of improving interactions between LGBTQ individuals and health care providers.

Applegate said emotional and physical safety are important health concerns.

"We've had spikes in violence towards our population, particularly the trans community,” she said. "We need public restrooms to be safe spaces; we need our schools and libraries and our public faculties to be safe spaces. And we need public policy that will ensure that happens."

In Ohio, there have been efforts to prohibit the practice of conversion therapy, in which a medical provider attempts to change a gay, lesbian, or transgender patient's sexuality or gender identity. Applegate said the practice - which is illegal in some states - has been discredited for the emotional trauma it causes.

"So, banning that practice would certainly help patients who are experiencing mental health challenges to be assured the treatment that they get is not going to cause them further damage,” Applegate said.

While there are no current statewide policies, both Cincinnati and Toledo have banned the use of conversion therapy for minors.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH