Adam Polaski

NYC Hospitals Strive for 'Cultural Competency'

Filed By Adam Polaski | May 28, 2011 9:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: health care reform, Institute of Medicine, National LGBT Cancer Network, New York

hospital.jpgThe public hospital system in New York City has launched a new training program to help its employees become more knowledgeable and culturally aware about the specific and unique health needs of the LGBT community. The program, which is mandatory for all 37,000 employees of public hospitals and is being organized in partnership with the National LGBT Cancer Network, is the first program of its kind in the United States.

The training includes a video and lectures about behaviors and health issues that are disproportionately prevalent in LGBT individuals, like smoking, alcohol abuse, mental health problems, and some sexually transmitted infections. The importance of follow-ups and avoiding misdiagnoses are also covered. The overall goal is to eliminate barriers to health care for LGBT people and ensure that they are not discriminated against or underserved.

The initiative is being implemented shortly after the release of several new reports that reveal the importance of further study into the unique needs of LGBT individuals. In late March, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies released a report - "The Health of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People: Building a Foundation for Better Understanding" - that concluded that the LGBT population, like most minority populations, have specific health concerns that providers need to understand. In order to most effectively treat sexual and gender minorities, providers must formulate a stronger "cultural competency" with regard to LGBT people.

DSC05684.JPGIn a NY1 report, Alan Aviles, the president of the Health & Hospitals Corporation, stated the significance of the initiative:

This is a city that has a very large population of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals who come to our facilities for help, and we need to be as sensitive and respectful to their needs as we are to everybody else's.

This program should function as a model for other health care providers, which should be able to serve LGBT individuals and address aspects of the population more specifically. In Los Angeles, the conversation has already begun, and with focused research that highlights these health care disparities, progress is possible.

img src; Photo of press conference attendees (L-R, Alan Aviles, Dr. Bacha, Liz Margolies, Rosemary Lopez, and Deputy Mayor Gibbs) courtesy of Cathy Renna

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Jay Kallio | May 28, 2011 12:37 PM

The National LGBT Cancer Network deserves kudos for their extraordinary 10 minute LGBT cultural competency video, which is so moving that many viewers end up crying by the end of it. Rather than weighing down the piece with statistics and science, the short video make a huge emotional impact, focussing on the need for recognition, respect, and dignity for all who seek medical services. While statistics are distrusted by many, and quickly forgotten by most, the emotional call for justice and human dignity for all leaves a lasting impression. This learning experience may well make a considerable difference in the huge public health system where so many New York LGBTQ people obtain health care, and hopefully other communities around the nation will take heed and develop their own cultural competency training for all staff.

I especially appreciate that HHC, our NY Metro public hospitals corporation has mandated this training video for ALL staff, including top administration, doctors, nurses, technicians, security, housekeeping, etc., so that everyone who comes in contact with patients has been given the message that LGBT people must be treated equally with everyone else. The last thing anyone needs when they are sick or injured, and helplessly dependent on care providers, is to face hostility, judgement, rejection, bigotry, and denial of care, or reduced quality of care that compromises their health.

I felt this video is a major success at "changing hearts and minds"; the change we really need, when all the anti discrimination legislation in the world otherwise falls short. Thanks most of all to Liz Margolies of the National LGBT Cancer Network, who's vision made this possible, and my deepest thanks to everyone who helped create this masterpiece.

If anyone wishes to view the video it can be found at HHC's press release webpage:

That is a really good video, Jay. Thanks for sharing it.

I loved the video. Jay, I thought you were extremely persuasive in the video. I don't know what the other parts of the training are, but I'd like to hear more about what they're doing. How do you go about training all those people about all these issues with appropriate depth?