This coming week, when we celebrate both National LGBTQ Health Awareness Week (20-25 March 2022) and International Transgender Day of Visibility (31 March 2022), is a good time to consider focusing your attention on LGBTQ health disparities and consider holding a health fair!
LGBTQ people experience a number of health disparities—ways in which our health is compromised as a result of discrimination and neglect. For example, LGBTQ people are:
Less likely to get preventative care, such as mammograms and pap smears
Less likely to have health insurance
More likely to experience depression and anxiety
More likely to smoke and misuse substances, such as alcohol
More likely to get HIV or STIs
More likely to be the victim of violence
These differences are especially pronounced among people of color, youth and seniors, although LGBTQ people of all races and ages experience these disparities. You can learn more about these issues from pages on LGBTQ people from Healthy People 2020 (the US government’s plan to improve Americans health), the Centers for Disease Control, and the National LGBT Health Education Center’s resource, Understanding the Health Needs of LGBT People, and guides from sites like HMHB. The Center for American Progress offers a detailed resource on how to close the gap of health disparities faced by LGBTQ people. The Movement Advancement Project offers this map about how health care laws and policies impact LGBTQ people.
Holding a health fair that connects people with affirming providers and services that address these disparities can be one way to make a difference. The Centers for Disease Control offers this helpful resource on how to plan a health fair and the Episcopal Church’s Health Ministries offers this guide on planning a health fair. Both offer concrete and comprehensive suggestions.
Here are some specifics to consider in addressing LGBTQ Health:
If there is an LGBTQ specific health organization in your community or an HIV/AIDS organization, reach out to them and consider partnering with them.
- Build a committee to work on this project that includes those with knowledge of local health care providers and representatives of community groups. Include diverse voices on your committee to ensure that you are aware of the different needs that should be addressed.
Use local directories in an LGBTQ paper, magazine or website to locate affirming providers who are specifically reaching out to LGBTQ people.
Go through the list of health disparities listed above and in the resource links and think of ways to address each one. For example, how could an LGBTQ person be connected with health insurance in your state? Which local health agencies specifically serve LGBTQ people? Do local smoking cessation programs have a specific outreach to LGBTQ smokers?
- Invite a wide range of providers and be sure to ask them to send representatives who are LGBTQ knowledgeable and affirming. Some of the people and organizations to invite can include:
- Medical providers, including doctors and clinics;
- Health advocacy and education organizations that address issues like diabetes, heart health, etc. ;and those who provide screening services, such as blood pressure checks;
- HIV/AIDS organizations and professionals, including those who provide HIV-testing at your event;
- Massage therapists and other body workers;
- Insurance providers or insurance exchange representatives;
- Mental health professionals, including therapists and clinics;
- Recovery professionals and clinics;
- Nutritionists and others who support healthy food choices;
- Local gyms and fitness centers;
- Spiritual directors;
- Bereavement groups;
- Retirement communities.
- Given that LGBTQ people often put off preventive health care because of fears of discrimination, consider what you can offer on the spot. Some local communities have mobile medical services and screening services. Getting people to take action on the spot–getting a flu shot, having a mammogram, checking their blood sugar, etc.–can make a big difference.
- After setting your program, focus your attention on outreach. Take particular care to reach out to communities with the greatest health disparities, including people of color, youth and seniors.
- Because of the economic vulnerabilities of these communities, considering things like providing bus tokens to help people attend your event or offering a free, healthy meal or snacks at your event.