Campus News

Debut of Wisconsin LGBTQ+ Health summit introduces plans to eliminate health disparities

UW Health hosted a summit aimed at improving inclusivity for members of the LGBT+ community. 

UW Health hosted a summit aimed at improving inclusivity for members of the LGBT+ community. 

Image By: Kalli Anderson

Through policy change, staff integration and more welcoming spaces, the UW-Madison School of Nursing aimed to create more positive relationships between medical practitioners and LGBTQ+ patients by hosting the first Wisconsin LGBTQ+ Health Summit. 

The summit aimed to provide an opportunity for LGBTQ+ community members to navigate resources, educate healthcare providers on how to improve the health of LGBTQ+ individuals and create a public space for both groups to effectively communicate.

“We are bringing in mental health professionals, medical professionals, members of the LGBTQ+ community and anyone in the community who feels it will be valuable to learn more about LGBTQ+ health,” said Alex Dudek, a UW-Madison student who planned the summit. “We think this interdisciplinary approach is the best way to improve our health outcomes in the community.”

During the summit, UW Health Chief Diversity Officer Shiva Bidar-Sielaff said the hospital is committed to building an inclusive and affirming environment for the LGBTQ+ community. 

A new gender-inclusive staff, patient and visitor restroom and locker room policy at UW Health allows anyone to use facilites without being questioned, regardless of gender expression and sexual orientation.

The hospital is also working to add patients’ pronouns to their electronic medical records. Sielaff said patients can fill out a “sexual orientation and gender identity” form through UW Health, which will add their preferred name, gender identity and pronouns to their medical records. 

Sielaff said a way to improve communication between medical practitioners and their patients is by knowing the sexual orientation and gender identity information of those patients in order to facilitate better treatment. 

According to a survey released from the Journal of American Medical Association Internal Medicine, nearly 80 percent of surveyed medical practitioners believed their patients would refuse to share their sexual orientation. However, 90 percent of surveyed patients said they would provide this information if asked to by their health provider. 

According to Beth Alleman, a student presenter at the summit, politicians are also striving to change current policies related to LGBTQ+ health at the federal, state and county level. 

According to the Human Rights Campaign, one policy — the Equality Act — would provide important protections for LGBTQ+ individuals in long term care placements, educational settings, employment and public accommodations. 

“Depending on where you live, you can get married on Monday and get fired from a job on Tuesday,” Alleman said. “The Equality Act would change that.” 

Alleman said even though members of the LGBTQ+ community still experience critical challenges, including medical disparities, that jeopardize their long-term health, they are motivated to keep advocating.

“Don’t underestimate the power of visibility,” Alleman said. “Even though it seems we are so far, we can make great progress by working together.” 

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