FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Krishna Stone | 212.367.1016
On June 16th 2011, the National Prevention Strategy: America's Plan for Better Health and Wellness was released. This is the nation's first cross-sector, integrated strategy designed to improve the health of Americans through coordinated prevention efforts. The National Prevention Strategy was developed by the National Prevention Council and is a key provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed in 2010.
The strategy outlines four strategic directions and seven priorities. One of the four outlined strategic directions is the elimination of health disparities which most often affect marginalized populations whose health care needs have historically been largely ignored. These populations include racial and ethnic minorities, low-income people, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people.
Part of the problem in addressing LGBT health disparities is the lack of standardized population data:
Improving the standardization of population data, especially for race/ethnicity, age, gender, religion, socioeconomic status, primary language, disability status, sexual orientation and gender identity, and geographic location, will improve our ability to identify and target efforts to address health disparities.
This is especially the case concerning HIV prevalence and incidence rates among transgender people, a population highly vulnerable to HIV. Improving data collection methods was also a key recommendation of the March 2011 Institute of Medicine report on LGBT health disparities and research gaps.
HIV-related health disparities have severely affected men who have sex with men (MSM), African Americans, Latinos, and IV drug users. Most notably, MSM account for 2% of the population, yet they represent 57% of new HIV infections. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the estimated number of new infections among adult and adolescent MSM increased by 14% from 2006 to 2009. Specific recommendations that address the biological, behavioral, and socio-structural factors which place MSM at increased risk of HIV would have greatly strengthened the National Prevention Strategy's long-term approach to ending health disparities.
Lastly, the National Prevention Strategy acknowledges the mental health needs of LGBT people in the Mental and Emotional Well-Being priority: "Family and community rejection of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth, including bullying, can have profound and long-term impacts (e.g., depression, use of illegal drugs, and suicidal behavior)." The recent suicides in 2010 amongst gay men who were victims of anti-gay bullying further reinforces the need to have a federal strategy that addresses the mental health and emotional well-being of the LGBT community.
Nevertheless, inclusion of LGBT people and the recommendation to improve surveillance mechanisms within the National Prevention Strategy are welcome developments that will assist in addressing the specific health needs of these communities. We encourage the National Prevention Council to incorporate prevention strategies which specifically focus on the sexual and mental health of LGBT people. This will greatly improve long standing health disparities and promote wellness in these underserved populations.
GMHC is a not-for-profit, volunteer-supported and community-based organization committed to national leadership in the fight against AIDS. We provide prevention and care services to men, women and families that are living with, or affected by, HIV/AIDS in New York City. We advocate for scientific, evidence-based public health solutions for hundreds of thousands worldwide.