UNT research center tries to locate gaps in healthcare for Dallas LGBT community

Barton Poche, research assistant at the University of North Texas’ Center for Psychosocial Health Research

Researchers at the University of North Texas’ Center for Psychosocial Health Research are partnering with healthcare workers, spiritual leaders and others that work with the Dallas LGBT community in order to create a survey that will locate gaps in healthcare that the LGBT community faces.

“I think one of the big motivations is that nothing like this has been done in Dallas, which has a very large LBGT population,” said Barton Poche, a research assistant at the Center.

The data acquired from the survey will be distilled into valuable information about gaps in care — such as insurance coverage difficulties and a lack of culturally competent healthcare providers — that will be shared with healthcare providers and community leaders so that these issues may be addressed.

Poche said that gaps in LGBT healthcare result from stigma, discrimination and a lack of awareness by health professionals, and that these issues are sometimes exaggerated in the American South where there are less accepting attitudes towards LGBT people due to widespread conservative and religious values.

The Center is currently in the second of three stages of research and hopes to have the survey completed by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, some hospitals in the DFW area are already making efforts like improving training and implementing fair visitation policies to address gaps in healthcare that the LGBT community faces. Parkland Memorial is one such hospital and was named a Healthcare Equality Leader in 2013 and 2014 by the Human Rights Campaign.

Brad Walsh, strategic planning project administrator for Parkland Memorial, said that while the awards are important, there is still work to be done. One area that needs attention is medical records that don’t give doctors adequate information about their patients, according to Walsh.

“There is a lot that still needs to be done in the medical records to make them accurate,” said Walsh. “For example, on pediatric records, does it say ‘Mother/Father’? Because that really doesn’t reflect 21st century family realities anymore. ‘Parent1/Parent2’ would make more sense. The doctor needs to know everything that the patient is willing to tell them about their sexual orientation and gender identity to make good clinical decisions.”

Rafael McDonnell, communications and advisory manager of LGBT services at Resource Center Dallas, an organization that focuses on LGBT and HIV/AIDS health and wellness programs, said that there are other crucial issues that need to be addressed as well.

“There are a number of studies out there that have found that many LGBT people have not come out to their physicians because they may not be comfortable discussing certain issues with doctors,” said McDonnell. “Also, in the transgender community, people may not be able to get access to healthcare that they need during their transition period.”

McDonnell said the study being conducted by the Center for Psychosocial Health Research “will point exactly where the needs are.”

Originally published at www.thesyndromeirregularly.com on March 9, 2015.

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