HHS Calls For Health Professionals To Study 'LGBT Cultural Competency Curricula'

January 5, 2012 - 8:21 PM

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Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

(CNSNews.com) -The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) says it is taking action to better address the health care needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, by encouraging, among other things, health profession training programs to "include LGBT cultural competency curricula."

In a statement on the HHS Web site listing "Recommended Actions to Improve the Health and Well-Being of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Communities," it states that "HHS will ensourage new and existing health profession training programs, including behavioral health (e.g., mental health, substance abuse, and HIV) programs, to include LGBT cultural competency curricula."

"The lack of culturally competent providers is a significant barrier to quality health care for many LGBT people, particularly those who identify as transgender," reads the HHS statement. "HHS's Health Resources and Services Administration will also convene professional groups that represent LGBT health providers and students to identify challenges and opportunities for training LGBT providers and to isolate strategies geared toward increasing culturally competent care for LGBT patients"

In addition, the HHS lists summarized actions taken on behalf of the LGBT community, such as forming  an internal LGBT Coordinating Committee, the inclusion of LGBT people in implementing the Affordable Care Act and ongoing anti-bullying efforts.

HHS also says it will work with “LGBT community advocates” to implement its “Future Recommended Actions.”

These include a Web site that will help homosexuals identify insurance policies that cover “domestic partners.”

The HHS will also conduct outreach to organizations that serve LGBT communities to connect homosexuals with “available funding opportunities.”

The plan includes increasing data on LGBT individuals, including “collaboration with other agencies throughout HHS, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)” in “an effort to develop and test questions on sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Protection under federal law is another item in the plan, which states that HHS will “advise” states and tribes that “LGBT couples” can be treated similarly to “non-LGBT couples” for health services and other benefits such as child care and “Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.”

In the "LGBT cultural competency" section the HHS further outlines: "In consultation with LGBT communities, HHS will develop cultural competency goals and promote the use of cultural competency curricula inclusive of LGBT populations in future grants guidance. Moreover, to improve the capacity of practitioners in addressing behavioral health needs, HHS's Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration will utilize existing federal and national training and technical assistance networks to support the adoption of behavioral health training materials."

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(AP Photo)


The final item says that HHS will continue its efforts against discrimination, harassment and violence, including federal funding through “target populations for population-specific grants.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, which began asking questions about same-sex household information in the 1990 Census, only 581,300 individuals were part of a same-sex household in 2009. That’s less than one-half of one percent (0.5 percent) of the 307 million people living in the U.S. in 2009.

Furthermore, data from the Census Bureau's 2010 Demographic Profile shows that “same-sex spouses” accounted for a mere 2.5 percent of the U.S. population, which is nearly 8 million people out of the total 309 million Americans.

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A gay rainbow flag outside the U.S. Capitol. (AP Photo)

The 2006-2008 National Survey of Family Growth found that 3.7 percent of adults aged 18 to 44 were homosexual or bisexual. The survey is administered by the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the federal Centers for Disease Control. It consists of an in-person interview in which the respondent enters his or her own answers into the computer without telling them to an interviewer.

The University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center, which has been conducting scientifically designed surveys on homosexuality for close to 30 years – far longer than the U.S. Census Bureau – found the percentage of gays, lesbians, and bisexuals in the United States in 2008 was 2 percent – a number that has been stable since the late ‘80s, according to Tom Smith, director of the General Social Survey at NORC. (pg. 57)

Some of the HHS’s LGBT goals already have a presence on government Web sites, including healthypeople.gov, which features an LGBT page with a photo of a male couple.

According to the CDC, the men who have sex with other men (MSM) represent a very small portion of the U.S. population and also are the group at highest risk for getting HIV and AIDS. The CDC reports:

-- MSM represent approximately 2 percent of the US population. However, MSM have an HIV diagnosis rate more than 44 times that of other men, and more than 40 times that of women.

-- MSM account for more than half of all new HIV infections in the United States and nearly 30,000 MSM are newly infected with HIV each year.

-- MSM is the only risk group with increasing annual numbers of new HIV infections.