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Improving the Clinic Experience for Sexual and Gender Minorities

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Sexual and gender minorities, including people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT), are at increased risk for a number of health threats including depression, tobacco and substance use, injury, violence, and communicable diseases. Dissatisfaction with and avoidance of routine health care can put sexual and gender minorities at additional risk for poor health. Factors that may deter LGBT individuals from seeking needed health services or, when they do access health care, from disclosing their sexual identity or behavior include an unwelcoming clinic environment, assumptions that patients are heterosexual, and clinician discomfort with discussing sexual history and behavior.

Strategies that can improve the healthcare experience and, ultimately the health, of LGBT people include making the clinic environment and clinical encounter more inclusive, training staff about the impact of bias and stigma on patient health, and being knowledgeable about local LGBT resources. Examples of these strategies, as well as a selection of local resources, are listed below.

Note: While recommendations for addressing youth-specific LGBT issues are beyond the scope of this article, the actions listed on the Los Angeles Department of Public Health website can be applied to improve the clinic experience for both youth and adults.

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