As we start this New Year, health is top of mind for many LGBTQIA individuals in Pennsylvania including right here in Western PA. As we continue to address the impact of COVID, we know that there are still many other health needs impacting our communities. A staggering one third of LGBTQIA Pennsylvanians do not believe that their healthcare providers have medical expertise related to their health needs as an LGBTQIA person.
Since 2015, LGBTQIA Pennsylvanian’s have been making their voices heard to work toward health equity in an effort to build more comprehensive and competent health and social services. In 2022, the fourth Pennsylvania LGBTQ Health Needs Assessment is being implemented to measure our community’s concerns, health disparities and barriers to accessing care. The findings on mental health, sexual health, healthcare access, experiences with violence and discrimination and more will help accelerate efforts to improve programming and poilicymaking to address both the health and social needs of all LGBTQIA Pennsylvanians.
Admiral Dr. Rachel Levine, currently U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health, and former Pennsylvania Secretary for the Department of Health, clearly states why a survey like this is needed. “As a physician, I’ve seen the health consequences of neglecting a patient’s needs; as a policy maker, I’ve seen the cost of creating policies that are uninformed; and as a transgender woman, I’ve felt the burden of other’s ignorance.” Through the survey, critical insights were gained in tobacco use, HIV, flu vaccination rates, and social isolation that framed the understanding of our community’s risks in the face of COVID-19.
In 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, over 6,500 Pennsylvanians from 64 of the 67 counties in Pennsylvania completed the survey, providing the largest response and data collection since the survey was launched. Building off previous success, the goal is to receive even more responses this year.
The effort to gather the data is no small undertaking. Over 30 LGBTQIA community based organizations have joined forces to begin the outreach needed in order to collect responses to the assessment. It is important to note, responses have been collected from youth, older adults, BIPOC, Trans and nonbinary community members, and those community members with intersex traits that haven’t been represented or heard from in previous years. Thanks to this coalition of organizations, Pennsylvania has emerged as a leader in LGBTQIA health. The data is gathered by and for LGBTQIA community members to increase programs and improve health outcomes.
Momentum is continuing to build with each administration of this statewide health needs assessment. We know we can do even better this year with your help! We can bring together more people across more communities. We can achieve greater representation for every intersection of our community. We can collaborate and work together to achieve health equity with all LGBTQIA Pennsylvanians.