WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Wednesday said it had achieved “significant strides over the past year” and announced its objectives for the coming year, for improving the health and well-being of LGBT individuals, families, and communities.
According to a report released by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the Department ’s recent and future work encompasses a range of investments to help reduce health disparities and ensure equality and health security for LGBT Americans, from LGBT-inclusive research and data collection to equal access to affordable, quality health coverage.
“I am very proud of the strides that HHS has made to ensure equality for the LGBT community,” said Sebelius. “Today’s report details the department’s unprecedented commitment to the health and well-being of LGBT Americans, and I look forward to helping strengthen that commitment.”
The department noted a number of accomplishments over the past year, including:
- The Affordable Care Act provides nondiscrimination protection in the health care system, including on the basis of sex. The Office for Civil Rights clarified that the prohibition includes discrimination based on gender identity or sex stereotyping.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began including a sexual orientation-specific question on the National Health Interview Survey to expand collection of data on factors that contribute to health disparities experienced by LGBT individuals.
- The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid released guidance clarifying the visitation rights of LGBT individuals in nursing homes participating in Medicare and Medicaid.
- HHS established a sexual orientation and gender identity-inclusive non-discrimination policy that applies to services provided to HHS program beneficiaries by contractors.
- The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health expanded the Healthy People 2020 LGBT Topic Area to include new national objectives aimed at increasing the number of population-based data systems used to identify LGBT populations.
- The Health Resources and Services Administration awarded grants to support interventions that will improve the timely initiation and retention of quality HIV care for transgender women of color.
- The Office on Women’s Health invested in pilot studies to test effective ways of reducing obesity in lesbians and bisexual women.
- The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency and the Health Resources and Services Administration identified and reviewed curricula that help behavioral health and primary care practitioners assess, treat, and refer LGBT clients in a culturally competent manner.
- The Administration for Community Living funded technical assistance activities relating to LGBT aging at the National Resource Center for LGBT Aging Work, including key activities of housing, mental health, family care giving, and disabilities.
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In the upcoming year, HHS said it is working quickly to implement changes reflective of the June Supreme Court ruling that invalidated Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and is developing a resource document for practitioners who work with LGBT youth to help them understand the role of family acceptance and rejection in the overall health and well-being of youth.
The full report is available here.