“Health4LGBTI: Reducing health inequalities experienced by LGBTI people” 2016 04 – 2018 04

lgbti_logo_smallThis pilot project will increase our understanding of how best to reduce specific health inequalities experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and intersex (LGBTI) people, focussing in particular on overlapping inequalities stemming from discrimination and unfair treatment on other grounds (e.g. older, younger, refugee, immigrant, disability, rural, poverty).

The project will explore the particular health needs and challenges faced by LGBTI people and analyse the key barriers faced by health professionals when providing care for LGBTI people. The aim is to raise awareness of the challenges and provide European health professionals with the tools that give them the right skills and knowledge to overcome these barriers and contribute to the reduction of health inequalities.

The Health4LGBTI project commenced in March 2016. Over its two-year lifespan, activities will include:

  • A state‐of‐the‐art review of the health inequalities experienced by LGBTI people and the barriers faced by health professionals in providing healthcare for LGBTI people;
  • Two focus group studies in 6 geographically diverse EU Member States (Poland, Italy, UK, Belgium, Bulgaria, and Lithuania) to map the barriers faced both by LGBTI people and health professionals. A further aim of the focus group studies is to generate data including stimulus materials to inform the development of training module(s) for healthcare professionals;
  • Development of training module(s) aimed at increasing the knowledge, attitudes and skills of healthcare professionals when providing healthcare to LGBTI people. The module will be developed in such a way so as to be potentially replicable across the EU;
  • Piloting of the training module(s) in the same Member States where the focus groups will be conducted, in order to fine-tune and finalise the modules;
  • A final European conference, and wide dissemination and communication targeting civil society organisations representing or working with key population groups, healthcare professionals, European health organisations including the EU as well as national, regional and local policy and decision makers in the area of health.

There is substantial evidence demonstrating that LGBTI people experience significant health inequalities that have impact on their health outcomes. LGBTI people continue to experience stigma and discrimination combined with social isolation and limited understanding of their lives by others, leading to significant barriers in terms of accessing health and social care services. These experiences can translate into a risk of alcohol abuse, depression, suicide and self‐harm, violence, substance misuse and HIV infection. Depression, anxiety, alcohol and substance misuse are at least 1.5 more common in LGBTI people, with lesbian and bisexual women at particular risk of alcohol abuse.

One of the most common issues for LGBTI people in accessing health and social care services is that many healthcare and other professionals commonly assume that LGBTI people’s health needs are the same as those of heterosexual people, unless their health needs are related to sexual health. LGBTI people have unique healthcare concerns which frequently go unacknowledged by service providers. A further significant barrier in accessing health services by LGBTI people concerns disclosure of identity, as many LGBTI people fear that if they disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity status to a healthcare worker they will experience discrimination and/or poorer treatment.

Whereas lots of attention has been paid to describing and measuring the problem of health inequalities within and across Europe, relatively little attention has been paid to how most effectively reduce health inequalities in populations. Clearly, there is a need both at Member State and European levels to tackle these inequalities experienced by LGBTI people, as the right thing to do to support some of the most vulnerable populations within our societies, but also as a work towards the development of high quality health services across the Union that are equally accessible to all.