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2010-03-15: ACTION ALERT! Sign on for a Nat'l Office for LGBT Health NOW!

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Action Alert from the National Coalition for LGBT Health

The federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is considering creating a dedicated Office of LGBT Health. This would be an incredible affirmation of the importance of LGBT health and would help keep LGBT health concerns high on the list of priorities for attention, funding, and programming.

HHS is expected to make this decision before Thanksgiving. Due to the tight timeline, we are asking groups and organizations to sign on to the letter below by not later than 1 PM EST tomorrow (Friday, 11/20).

If your group or organization would like to sign on, please email Kellan Baker, Policy Associate at the National Coalition for LGBT Health, at kellan@lgbthealth.net. Please do not hesitate to contact Kellan with any questions.

Please join us in supporting an Office of LGBT Health and a healthier future for the LGBT community!

November 19, 2009

The Honorable Kathleen Sebelius
Secretary for Health
Department of Health and Human Services
Washington, D.C. 20201

Dear Secretary Sebelius,

The undersigned organizations are writing to you in support of the creation of an Office of LGBT Health to address the health disparities facing the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. An Office of LGBT Health at the highest level of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is critical to creating a lasting infrastructure that will allow for a focus the health concerns of the LGBT community. This office would take the lead in coordinating a consistent, scientifically driven, and substantive response across HHS to LGBT health disparities.

For LGBT people, systemic discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression has led to decades of obstructed access to health care and has significant negative impacts on the overall health of LGBT individuals. LGBT people suffer disproportionately from the adverse health effects of stigma, stress, and violence, further compounded by the barriers that prevent them from accessing vital health care services even for routine care: research has consistently shown that being LGBT substantially impacts whether or not a person receives care and, when they do receive care, whether that care effectively speaks to all aspects of their lives. Moreover, many members of the LGBT community are members of other communities that also face substantial health disparities and are thus vulnerable to cumulative negative outcomes. For example, an African-American gay man faces disparities common to the African-American community as well as those suffered by the LGBT community, and a transsexual Spanish-speaking woman, regardless of her sexual orientation, must navigate multiple instances of discrimination based on language, ethnicity, and gender.

These health and health care disparities are now recognized by numerous divisions of HHS, including the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The HHS Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Healthy People 2020 has also acknowledged the imperative to address the disparities in health status and health care access that impact the LGBT community. An autonomous Office of LGBT Health within HHS is a key step in coordinating and streamlining the agency’s efforts to address LGBT health disparities and would be a laudable demonstration of the agency’s commitment to the health and well-being of the LGBT community.

We look forward to your reply. If you need any additional information, please do not hesitate to contact Rebecca Fox at the National Coalition for LGBT Health at (202) 436-0228 or Rebecca@lgbthealth.net.

Sincerely,

CC: Assistant Secretary Howard Koh