The Office of Minority Health (OMH) of the US Department of Health and Human Services announced highly anticipated revised cultural competency standards for healthcare that are for the first time LGBT inclusive, an advancement that GLMA and other organizations have advocated for years.
The National Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) Standards in Health and Healthcare are intended to advance health equality, improve quality and help eliminate healthcare disparities by establishing a framework and a blueprint for health and healthcare organizations. The CLAS Standards are a nationally recognized and utilized tool for culturally competent healthcare.
The enhanced CLAS Standards specifically include sexual orientation and gender identity in its broader definition of culture. OMH’s accompanying publication, A Blueprint for Advancing and Sustaining CLAS Policy and Practice, also shares examples of health disparities experienced by LGBT people and includes specific reference to LGBT health in many of the standards. Additionally, GLMA’s seminal publication, Healthy People 2010: Companion Document for LGBT Health, which GLMA published in collaboration with other LGBT health groups, and the GLMA website are listed as resources in the OMH Blueprint.
As I listened this morning at the launch of the enhanced CLAS standards, hearing from both Howard Koh, HHS Assistant Secretary for Health, and Nadine Gracia, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health and OMH Director, speak about the broader definition of culture that now includes sexual orientation and gender identity, I couldn’t help but feel immense pride for the incredible work that has been done to develop these critically important enhanced standards and enormous appreciation to Drs. Koh and Gracia, among many others, for their leadership.
In 2010, GLMA partnered with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the National Coalition for LGBT Health and Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders to submit comments to OMH calling for the specific inclusion of LGBT people in the CLAS Standards. The letter described to OMH the significant health disparities experienced by LGBT people as well as the social stigma and discrimination—including in healthcare—LGBT people face. We then called on OMH to adopt standards that address the cultural competency needs of the LGBT community.
GLMA has been eagerly awaiting the release of these enhanced, LGBT-inclusive standards, which signal a significant shift in the understanding of the unique healthcare needs of the LGBT community as well as recognition by the larger diversity and cultural competence field that the LGBT community is a welcome partner in the quest for healthcare equity.
GLMA is a leading voice for inclusion of LGBT health in the broader context of cultural competence in healthcare. Last year, GLMA’s Education Committee—already charged with developing the premier national LGBT health conference—formed a subcommittee to further our cultural competence work. Since then, GLMA has partnered with the Hopkins Center for Health Disparities Solutions at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health to provide a cultural competence webinar series. Over 400 people from across the country and across the health professions have participated in each of the two webinars to date to learn more about LGBT health and how best to care for LGBT individuals in their healthcare settings.
GLMA members play an important role in our progress towards LGBT health equality, including in designing cultural competence work and in advocacy on the CLAS Standards. The professional expertise of our members shapes our advocacy and directly impacts work being done across the country and right here in Washington, DC. Be a part of this important work by joining GLMA, renewing your membership or making an additional contribution to support our cultural competence, advocacy and education initiatives.
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