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Insensitivity, Ignorance Play A Role In LGBT Health Disparities

May 27, 2011 6:05 pm ET by Equality Matters staff

Insensitivity, ignorance, and a general lack of knowledge play a significant role in perpetuating ongoing health disparities for the LGBT community. In a column published Thursday, Sue LaVaccare highlights the ways in which cultural competency training can allow medical professionals to more effectively respond to the particular needs of their LGBT patients:

[T]oo often LGBT patients receive substandard treatment from medical staff – or skip care altogether, fearing judgment, ignorant questions, blank stares and irrelevant recommendations.

The answer is health professionals who are more knowledgeable about and sensitive to the specific needs of LGBT patients, approaching each patient as an individual, without assumption, judgment or ignorance about what they need or are concerned about. This concept isn’t new. In fact, throughout health care there is a movement to increase “cultural competency”: the degree to which patients and providers can communicate without cultural differences hindering the experience.

And it’s not just political correctness; when health professionals don’t understand or relate to their patients, there is a greater chance for misdiagnoses, lack of diagnoses, improper follow-up and unnecessary procedures – all of which dramatically impact the quality and cost of care. And when people who need care avoid it – because of bad experiences – their outcomes worsen, ultimately requiring more expensive care later on.


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