By Norma J. Goodwin, M.D., Founder and President, Health Power
June is LGBT Pride Month, and Health Power joins the steadily increasing number of individuals, organizations and companies throughout the nation that recognize the importance of LGBT persons being able to publicly celebrate, with the same high self-esteem as others – – Who they are and Who they love. Furthermore, supporting LGBT pride must not just be a June thing, but a year-round thing.
Do Ask, Do Tell – Your Health Provider – for Health Preservation
It’s also important that LGBT persons obtain high quality health care. Within this sprit, we join the National LGBT Health Education Center (NLGBTHEC) in recommending that all LGBT persons who have not come out to their physicians and other health professionals, do so. In fact, the LGBTHEC started “Do Ask, Do Tell”, and we at Health Power support the same concept.
Talking to Your Health Care Provider About Being LGBT – The National LGBTHEC Message
Coming out to your health care provider is an important step to being healthy. Many people are not aware that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people face unique health risks, such as higher smoking rates, a greater risk of suicide attempts, and a higher chance of getting certain sexually transmitted diseases. Talking with your provider can help you overcome these issues and access the care you need. Being open about one’s sexual orientation, sexual behavior, and gender identity not only helps one’s health provider, it helps the person!.
Reasons You Should Come Out to Your Provider if You’re an LGBT Person:
- Your provider can offer care that is personalized and most relevant to you.
- Your provider can offer referrals to specialists, like behavioral health providers and other wellness providers, who are welcoming to LGBT people.
- Your provider can be sensitive to current health trends that affect LGBT people.
- Health care is about the whole person. By being open with your provider, you allow him/her to provide you with comprehensive care that supports your body, mind and spirit.
Behavioral and Physical Health
LGBT people often experience prejudice, stereotyping, and harassment or bullying by others. This kind of discrimination can be very stressful, which can put you at risk for depression, anxiety, substance abuse, feelings of loneliness, and even suicide. Being open not only about your sexual orientation and gender identity, but also about any substance use or mental health needs, allows your provider to give you the best possible care.
Exercise and healthy eating are also important components of wellness for everyone. Physical health plays an important role in feeling emotionally health, too!
Research has shown that LGBT people are more likely to smoke, lesbians are at higher risk for obesity, and some gay men struggle with poor body image. If you discuss these issues with your health care providers, they can advise you on health diets and self-image, smoking cessation, and exercise routines.
Lesbians, bisexual women, and some transgender people should also make sure they are getting routine gynecologic screenings, including Pap smears, and routine breast cancer screening.
Sexual and Reproductive Health
Talking to your provider about your sexual heath isn’t easy. However, there are many benefits to discussing your sexual function and behaviors with a provider. Each person’s needs differ, but some sexual health issues that may be important to discuss are:
- Screening for STDs and HIV
- Getting vaccinated for HPV and hepatitis A and B
- Getting treated for hepatitis C if you have it, now that there’s a cure
- Using condoms or other barrier methods
- Safer sex education and counseling
- Problems with sexual function or satisfaction
- Plans to adopt or conceive children
All LGBT people should also feel comfortable talking to their providers about family life issues, such as partner abuse (feeling safe at home) and living wills.
Remember the Health Power tagline or motto: Knowledge + Action = Power!
Wishing you physical, mental and spiritual health,