We’ve Celebrated Pride Month — Now What?

By Dr. Nancy Yoon, Chief Medical Officer & Aaron Schekorra, Public Health Information Administrator at Springfield-Greene County Health

Each June, millions of people come together across their communities to celebrate LGBTQ+ Pride Month. This celebration recognizes the accomplishments of LGBTQ+ people, acknowledges the progress that has been made, and raises awareness around the many issues and disparities still facing the LGBTQ+ community.

More than half of all gay, lesbian, and bisexual people and 70% of transgender and gender non-conforming people have experienced discrimination while accessing health care, according to the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Healthcare Equality Index. LGBTQ+ people are less likely to have insurance or access to preventative health care, experience higher rates of HIV and STIs, higher rates of smoking and substance use, and an increased need for mental health resources.

The impacts of these disparities are significant. Discrimination and internalized bias leads to worse care for LGBTQ+ people. Stigma, harassment, and discrimination take a toll on the mental health of those who experience them. Because of these experiences or the expectation of poor treatment, some LGBTQ+ patients are reluctant to reveal their sexual orientation or gender identity to their providers, despite the importance of such information for their care. The full effect is hard to measure because data collection on LGBTQ+ people is incomplete and not standard.

Record numbers of organizations and businesses have begun celebrating Pride Month with the community in the last several years. This increase in support has helped raise awareness and start many important conversations. Once an organization takes this step, what should they do next? How do we move beyond symbolic gestures and create change that builds better, more inclusive services, workplaces, and communities? In 2021, Springfield-Greene County Health chose to celebrate Pride month for the first time, and we did this by changing our logo across our social media platforms.

Springfield-Greene County Health Pride Month logo (June 2021)

The goal of the health department is to help ALL people live longer, healthier, and happier lives, so we asked ourselves what we could do to go beyond a celebratory logo. We began with holding our first COVID-19 vaccination clinic at The GLO Center to offer LGBTQ+ people a safe and welcoming space where they could get vaccinated. It was a small step, but an important one because it made this critical service available to people and families who may not have received it otherwise and represented our first concrete effort to reach out to the LGBTQ+ community. Then the question became, what else can our department do to celebrate Pride?

Over the next year, SGCHD took time to evaluate how our department could provide higher quality and more accessible services to the entire community, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer individuals. Moreover, how can we as a public health agency assist in addressing the numerous health disparities faced by this community.

Various teams in our department have taken steps to create a more inclusive workplace for our LGBTQ+ employees and more affirming services for our community. Efforts (in progress or completed) include:

- Communicating the department’s commitment to promoting a culture of inclusivity that welcomes all people for who they are.

- Staff training on LGBTQ+ health disparities and providing affirming care.

- Publishing content to raise awareness of health-related issues faced by LGBTQ+ people.

- Changes in forms, signage, and office practices to make people feel welcome and signal commitment to inclusion.

- Ensuring that all areas of the department respect those we serve by using names and pronouns that align with an individual’s gender identity.

- Increasing the data collected to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

- Updating online resource information to include LGBTQ+ affirming resources and information.

- Empowering employees to report harassment and discrimination.

- Reviewing policies and procedures for LGBTQ+ protections and inclusiveness.

- And using LGBTQ+ inclusive marketing and promotional materials.

These are examples of steps that many organizations, healthcare or otherwise, can take to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community in a meaningful and impactful way. We encourage all our partners to examine the ways that they show support for the LGBTQ+ community moving forward. Raising awareness is vital and will continue to be an important part of celebrations like Pride Month, but those efforts can and should complement programmatic and administrative changes that will allow our organizations and businesses to live up to the public showing of support that many of us have begun to participate in each June.

References and additional resources:

National LGBT Health Education Center: Understanding the Health Needs of LGBT People https://www.lgbtqiahealtheducation.org/publication/understanding-health-needs-lgbt-people/

Affirming Organizational and Human Resource Policies for an LGBTQIA+ Workforce https://www.lgbtqiahealtheducation.org/publication/affirming-organizational-and-human-resource-policies-for-an-lgbtqia-workforce/

Kaiser Family Foundation: LGBT+ People’s Health and Experiences Accessing Care (July 2021) https://www.kff.org/report-section/lgbt-peoples-health-and-experiences-accessing-care-report/

Healthcare Equality Index 2022 — Human Rights Campaign https://www.hrc.org/resources/healthcare-equality-index

CDC Health Disparities Among LGBTQ Youth https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/disparities/health-disparities-among-lgbtq-youth.htm

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