A few weeks ago, Croakey’s Amy Coopes covered the Lesbian, Bisexual and Queer Women’s Health Conference in Sydney, coming away with some powerful lessons on the often unmet health, and health service needs of LBQ women.
Accessibility and appropriateness of health services has also been cited as a reason that gay and bisexual men are not tested for HIV as often as they should be.
For many health services and individual practices, failure to meet the needs of LGBTI people might simply be a case of “you don’t know what you don’t know”. Sometimes you just need to make a decision to find out.
The program described below by Matt Janssen from ACON represents one way in which health services might like to do this, and do so in a way that is connected, iterative and ongoing.
Matt Janssen writes:
While most lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex Australians live happy and productive lives, a disproportionate number experience poorer health outcomes than their heterosexual counterparts.
Australian and international research continues to show significant disparities in the health and wellbeing status of LGBTI people compared to the general population.
A 2016 report by the National LGBTI Health Alliance revealed LGBTI people were more likely to experience mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. The report also highlighted lesbian, gay and bisexual people were six times more likely to develop suicide ideation; 35 per cent of transgender people have attempted suicide in the lifetime; and 42 per cent of people with an intersex variation had thought about self-harm.
These outcomes are directly related to experiences of stigma, prejudice, discrimination and abuse on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity. And because of such experiences, many LGBTI people do not access necessary health and wellbeing services, resulting in delayed treatment and further contributing to negative outcomes.
Service providers play a vital role in addressing these issues. Providing comprehensive support to health professionals and practitioners in LGBTI inclusive practices and policies in service delivery will contribute to the health and wellbeing of LGBTI people.
Improving LGBTI service provision
Enter Pride in Health + Wellbeing. Launched in August 2017, Pride in Health + Wellbeing is a new national membership program that’s all about improving LGBTI service provision and delivery within the health, wellbeing and human services sectors. Spearheaded by ACON, NSW’s leading HIV prevention and LGBTI health organisation, as part of its suite of Pride Inclusion Programs, Pride in Health + Wellbeing aims to empower organisations in inclusive provision of services.
The program works with service providers across the lifetime of their LGBTI inclusion journey, from getting started through to achieving excellence and recognition as leaders in diversity and inclusion. The experience of each service provider is unique and the journey will look different for each member – from an individual practice that may wish to improve their approach to customer service and care, to national companies looking to strengthen their LGBTI inclusion policies.
Indeed, membership is open to any organisation working the sectors of health and wellbeing; providing health and wellbeing services and care across the lifespan of an individual.
Pride in Health + Wellbeing builds on the success of ACON’s Pride Inclusion Programs, which include Pride in Diversity. Launched in 2009, this self-funded program aimed at increasing workplace inclusion for the LGBTI community has been extremely successful, with almost 200 members across a broad range of sectors. In addition, Pride in Sport, launched in 2016, which seeks to reduce homophobia and transphobia among sporting codes and communities, is forging ahead.
From our experience with Pride Inclusion Programs, we know that when services providers, organisations and employers provide a safe and inclusive environment, they are better able to meet the needs of their LGBTI staff, clients and/or services users.
Breaking down barriers
The Pride in Health + Wellbeing program will assist member organisations to develop more inclusive service provision to break down barriers to access experienced by LGBTI people. Membership provides organisations with sector-specific support, resources, training and consulting. And through frequent interaction, and communities of practice with other health and wellbeing organisations active in this area, members will be able to connect and share best practice initiatives, leading to improvements for all.
As with ACON’s other programs, a benchmarking tool will be developed that will allow organisations to measure their inclusion and to determine areas where they can improve. LGBTI community members can expect over time that their experiences of dealing with the health and wellbeing sector will improve. Inclusion initiatives will become more visible and members of the community will be able to select service providers that are leading the way in inclusive service provision.
Pride in Health+Wellbeing, like other Pride Inclusion Programs, does not operate with a government grant. These national programs are self-funded via membership by organisations dedicated to LGBTI inclusion.
Towards improved outcomes
In recent times, we have already seen incremental change with many service providers acknowledging that they can do better in caring for all of their clients. These services are now recognising that LGBTI community members do require unique approaches for the delivery of good healthcare and support.
Pride in Health + Wellbeing has launched with eight foundation members – Uniting, Medibank, Flourish Australia, Murrumbidgee Primary Health Network, Reliant Healthcare, Lifeline Australia, ViiV Healthcare and NurseWatch – organisations taking steps towards inclusive LGBTI service provision and delivery.
Pride in Health + Wellbeing will unite these practitioners, along with others who choose to participate, and partner with them to continue to build their expertise and understanding of inclusion. In the future we envisage that these organisations and service providers will set the gold standard in LGBTI care and truly deliver improved outcomes for all their clients.
For more information on Pride in Health + Wellbeing, visit http://www.prideinclusionprograms.com.au.