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Federal Report Shows Stark Health Disparities in Lesbian and Bisexual Women

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) is including lesbian and bisexual women as a special population in the Women’s Health USA 2011 report for the first time ever. This annual data book identifies priorities, trends, and disparities in women’s health.  “Women’s Health USA provides the public with a valuable resource for describing the status of women's health throughout the nation,” said HRSA Administrator Mary Wakefield, Ph.D., R.N. “By highlighting critical health issues affecting women, this volume draws attention to age, income and race and ethnic disparities in women’s health.”

The report acknowledges that the unique status and health needs of lesbians and bisexual women are shaped by sexual identity and behavior, as well as traditional factors like age, education, race, and ethnicity.  The report suggests that lesbian and bisexual women are at increased risk for adverse health outcomes, including being overweight and obesity, poor mental health, substance abuse, violence, and barriers to accessing health care due to social and economic inequities. For example, lesbians reported receiving an annual gynecological check-up at half the rate of straight women despite reporting the same level of insurance coverage.  Lesbians and bisexual women are also twice as likely to report smoking and binge drinking as opposed to their straight counterparts. 

As a recent Institute of Medicine Report concluded, more data is needed to adequately identify and address the unique health needs and disparities in the LGBT population as a whole. HRC supports the development of this much needed data. HRC also recognizes that bias on the part of health care providers and fear of discrimination can intensify these health disparities and outcomes. Through HRC’s Healthcare Equality Index, we are working to improve this landscape and empower LGBT individuals to demand equal, quality health care.

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