CHICAGO, May 14, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The American Osteopathic Association encourages its 110,000 osteopathic medical students and physicians to actively partner with LGBT patients to improve the quality of care for the community, which continues to report discrimination as a barrier to health care services.
While overt discrimination, such as refusing to treat an LGBT patient, is relatively uncommon, advocates note that more subtle biases remain. For example, a gay man seeking treatment for flu-like symptoms might be given a referral for an HIV test, said Dr. Draion Burch, DO, an American Osteopathic Association spokesperson on LGBT issues.
Dr. Burch, an obstetrician and gynecologist from Pittsburgh, says despite increases in coverage due to the Affordable Care Act, some LGBT patients avoid physicians because they fear judgement. Many LGBT patients are reluctant to talk about personal lives and don't disclose their sexual preference or gender identity to their physician, he added, so establishing trust with LGBT patients is critical to providing quality care.
"As an osteopathic physician, I embrace the philosophy that it's our responsibility to partner with patients and create an empathetic dialog that allows them to speak openly," says Dr. Burch, who counts more than 50 transgender patients in his practice. "There are well-documented disease trends among the LGBTQI community and it's essential for physicians to compassionately care for patients by making sure their risk factors are addressed."
A recent Kaiser Family Foundation brief reports that while sexual and gender minorities have many of the same health concerns as their heterosexual and non-transgender peers, they experience higher rates of health challenges and report higher incidences of chronic medical conditions.
Dr. Burch points to several important health concerns in the LGBT community:
- LGBT individuals have an elevated risk for some mental health and behavioral conditions with studies finding that they are two and a half times more likely to experience depression, anxiety and substance misuse.
- Lesbian and bisexual women suffer from higher rates of cardiovascular disease, asthma, urinary tract infections, as well as Hepatitis B and C, than heterosexual women. They also have a higher risk of breast cancer, yet many avoid getting breast and cervical cancer screenings.
- Gay and bisexual men are three times as likely to engage in indoor tanning and thus twice as likely as heterosexual men to develop skin cancer, according to a study presented at a recent American Academy of Dermatology conference.
- Because gender transition is a chronic health condition due to the lifelong need for hormone therapy, transgender patients need to partner with a primary care physician who can manage all of the health implications of their therapy.
As LGBT Pride Month approaches, the AOA reasserts its commitment to providing compassionate, quality care to all patients, and their families, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
About the AOA
The American Osteopathic Association (AOA) represents more than 110,000 osteopathic physicians (DOs) and osteopathic medical students; promotes public health; encourages scientific research; serves as the primary certifying body for DOs; is the accrediting agency for osteopathic medical schools; and has federal authority to accredit hospitals and other health care facilities. More information on DOs/osteopathic medicine can be found at www.osteopathic.org.
SOURCE American Osteopathic Association