DC Council Bill Would Ensure Healthcare Providers Receive LGBT Cultural Competency Training

by Stephen Peters

WASHINGTON – Today, Washington DC Councilmembers David Grosso and Yvette Alexander will introduce a bill that would “require continuing education for licensed health professionals on the subject of cultural competence and appropriate clinical treatment for individuals who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, gender nonconforming, queer, or questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.”

“LGBT people face substantial systemic discrimination in healthcare due to a lack of understanding of the unique needs and challenges faced by the community,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “Cultural competency training is critical to reducing healthcare disparities for LGBT people and improving access to high-quality healthcare, especially for transgender people.”

“Although the District has taken great strides toward reducing healthcare related discrimination against LGBT people, training in cultural competency for most healthcare providers is very limited,” added HRC National Field Director Marty Rouse. “This bill would go a long way toward addressing that disparity and promoting care that respects the diversity in the patient population and the cultural factors that can affect health and healthcare, such as language, thoughts, communication styles, beliefs, values, and attitudes.”

The “LGBTQ Cultural Competency Continuing Education Amendment Act of 2015” would amend any existing continuing education requirements for licensed clinical healthcare providers in the District to include two credits of instruction on cultural competency or specialized clinical training focusing on LGBT patients.

As outlined in the 2014 HRC Healthcare Equality Index, in a 2009 survey by Lambda Legal, 56% of LGB patients surveyed have experienced some type of discrimination in healthcare, such as being refused needed care, healthcare providers refusing to touch them or using excessive precautions, healthcare providers using harsh or abusive language, being blamed for their health status, or healthcare providers being physically rough or abusive.

Transgender individuals face even higher disparities. 70% of transgender or gender nonconforming patients surveyed have experienced some type of discrimination in healthcare. One in five transgender individuals has been denied services by a doctor or other provider due to their gender identity. One in four transgender individuals said they have postponed care when sick or injured and postponed preventive healthcare due to discrimination and disrespect by providers.

Most professional ethics codes require providers to be culturally competent. However, competency training may be insufficient for marginalized groups, such as LGBT people, who are at risk for stigmatization and discrimination. Initial cultural competency training and continuing education provided to most healthcare providers can be limited or out of date. For example, homosexuality was still treated as a mental disorder (until 1973) and transgender clients were labeled with a disorder (as late as 2013).

HRC is proud to lead a coalition of organizations supporting this bill, including the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, DC (GLAA), Whitman-Walker Health, the Children’s National Medical Center, and the DC Center.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. HRC envisions a world where LGBT people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.


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