Pride in Cultural Competence: Los Angeles LGBT Center Leading the Way for LGBT Primary Care

Posted: June 10, 2015

by Dr. Robert Bolan, Medical Director, Los Angeles LGBT Center

As we celebrate Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Pride in June we can point to several successes in achieving greater health equity and improving access to care and treatment for LGBT people of all ages. Advocacy by the Los Angeles LGBT Center (The Center) and groups like the National LGBT Primary Care Network has helped make LGBT health a national issue, secure non-discrimination language in the Affordable Care Act and win budgetary support for new biomedical interventions to prevent HIV infection. We currently are making headway to require that electronic health records allow recording our patients’ sexual orientation and gender identity (SO/GI) in a way that facilitates appropriate health maintenance and expands meaningful use guidelines issued by the Centers for Medicaid & Medicare. However, we still have much left to accomplish at clinic front desks and in exam rooms.

As is true for members of any distinct community, however socially, ethnically, culturally defined, lack of easily acquired knowledge about LGBT health or lack of cultural competency in communication will lead to substandard care. As noted in a recent UCLA study, few clinics are equipped to adequately treat LGBT patients. Too many of them think incorrectly that they have no LGBT patients and don’t recognize the need for additional expertise and cultural competency. Some make offensive assumptions or fail to take adequate sexual and social histories and therefore can miss asking relevant medical questions. Still others are unaware of the health disparities and risk factors often found in LGBT populations. As we have seen far too often here at the Center, one bad experience with an uninformed clinician or intake staffer untrained in LGBT cultural competency is all it takes to drive a LGBT patient from medical care or from pursuing further treatment.

We take PRIDE in serving all communities and our LGBT expertise is both necessary and available to every health clinic, whether or not it has historically served LGBT patients.”

The Center is one of only seven community health centers across the nation designed to serve LGBT communities. Today these recognized leaders, along with multiple other clinics working to improve LGBT health, comprise the National LGBT Primary Care Alliance. Our goal is to share with other health centers nationwide the primary care best practices and cultural competencies proven to have an impact on health disparities and improve health outcomes for LGBT people. We take PRIDE in serving all communities and our LGBT expertise is both necessary and available to every health clinic, whether or not it has historically served LGBT patients.

If providers are to better serve their LGBT patients, our community clinic associations, like the Community Clinic Association of Los Angeles County and National Association of Community Health Centers, are indispensable. We need them to serve as both forums and conduits of information, advocacy and connection. For those of you attending the NACHC Community Health Institute in Orlando this August, we invite you to attend LGBT-specific meetings and presentations. Join us in talks with Bureau of Primary Health Care leadership about next steps on behalf of LGBT health. In short, we ask you to join us as we continue to work toward LGBT health equity so we may all take PRIDE in making this difference together.

Learn more about the work The Center does at its website:

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