UW-Health designated leader in LGBTQ equality

UW-Health designated leader in LGBTQ equality

UW-Health is being called a “Leader in LGBTQ Healthcare Equality” by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.

People in the LGBTQ community often don’t get the health care they need, according to studies that show they see lower rates of screenings and higher rates of STDs, substance abuse and suicide.

“The issues those communities face are different,” said Shiva Bidar-Sielaff, chief diversity officer at UW-Health. “The suicide rates in LGBTQ community are staggering.”

For the LGBTQ community, she said quality health care can be hard to come by.

“People had really negative experiences in the past with health care,” Bidar-Sielaff said, adding that building trust in the health care industry saves lives.

“For example, (if) you are a transgender man, but you may feel like you have a lump in your breast, even if you have transitioned, that you feel comfortable to say, ‘hey maybe there is still something going on here that I should go see a doctor,'” she said.

Bidar-Sielaff works to make health care LGBTQ-inclusive for both patients and employees at UW-Health.

“The reality is sexual orientation and gender identity matter to you,” she said. “That’s who you are.”

That means teaching providers how to give the best care, having nondiscrimination policies and processes in place for employees transitioning and partnering with LGBTQ organizations in the community.

This is the third year UW-Health has received the designation. Bidar-Sielaff said while there’s more work to be done, it’s a step in the right direction.

“The designation was really exciting, but it’s really about the work behind the designation we need to do to serve our LGBTQ communities,” she said.

Next, Bidar-Sielaff said the health system is setting its sights on implementing electronic medical records with better ways to track sexual orientation and gender identity, along with better training its employees on issues in the LGBTQ community.

About 300 health care facilities nationwide also received the designation.