Health

Statewide research attempts to fill lacking LGBTQ data on health

A sign on one of the single-user restrooms at the University of Iowa Health Care’s LGBTQ Clinic at Iowa River Landing in Coralville on Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
A sign on one of the single-user restrooms at the University of Iowa Health Care’s LGBTQ Clinic at Iowa River Landing in Coralville on Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
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In an effort among the first of its kind in the state, researchers have taken steps to understand the health needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Iowans

The University of Iowa College of Public Health partnered with the Iowa Cancer Consortium, statewide LGBTQ advocacy organization One Iowa and Des Moines University to produce the LGBTQ Health in Iowa report, a survey of 567 LGBTQ Iowans on their health care and health care access.

While data exists on the health and the health care access of LGBTQ individuals on a national scale, little exists on a state level, said Paul Gilbert, assistant professor of community and behavioral health at the College of Public Health and lead researcher on the project.

“That really is the crux of what motivated this survey,” he said.

Gilbert said this is the second study on this topic he is aware of in Iowa.

Respondents to the LGBTQ Health in Iowa survey were mostly white and cisgender — a person whose identify matches the sex they were assigned at birth. Twenty-four percent of respondents were transgender or genderqueer — someone who identifies with neither, both or a combination of male and female genders. More than half the respondents identified as gay or lesbian.

Among its findings, the survey showed that:

• 59 percent were not open as LGBTQ with their health care provider.

• 27 percent of respondents felt they had to teach a provider about LGBTQ people to get appropriate care.

The survey touches on a major concern among advocacy groups and those within the LGBTQ community — that the disparities within the health care system allow some LGBTQ individuals, particularly transgender men and women, to fall through the cracks.

In fact, the report stated these individuals “were repeatedly at higher risk of poor health outcomes” based on the survey results.

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It’s a disparity that Dr. Nicole Nisly, a physician with the University of Iowa Health Care system, has been attempting to address in Eastern Iowa.

Nisly is the founder and co-director of the LGBTQ clinic, which opened eight years ago and provides services for LGBTQ-identifying individuals and others at three locations throughout UIHC.

The goal of Nisly and other staff members at the clinic is to not only offer health care services that meet the needs of LGBTQ people, but to offer it in a welcoming and safe space. To do so, the LGBTQ clinic has implemented policies such as using preferred names and pronouns on medical documents.

For one patient visiting Nisly earlier this week, it’s this environment that has been the deciding factor in making the LGBTQ clinic his primary care provider, despite the fact he lives in Davis County.

Individuals who identify as LGBTQ have unique needs, and to continue improving their care, Nisly called for more research on disparities faced by the population.

“That’s how we improve the care of women, of men, of people of all genders and races so that we decrease what we call health inequalities,” she said.

To read the full LGBTQ Health in Iowa report, visit the College of Public Health’s website at public-health.uiowa.edu/tag/lgbtq-health.

For more information on the LGBTQ clinic, visit uilgbtqclinic.com.

l Comments: (319) 368-8536; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

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