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Breaking down health barriers.

Better doctors for lesbians

Battling health workers' ignorance about lesbians--a well-known barrier to maintaining lesbian health--the Mautner Project is reaching out to thousands of physicians and other health care providers nationwide. Mautner Project, the National Lesbian Health Organization, recently launched a program called "Removing the Barriers," a curriculum to educate health care professionals on the needs of lesbian patients.

"Many LGBT patients fear bias when they go to a provider's office," says April Nelson, Mautner's national training director. "In some cases patients may provide incomplete medical information, which can result in poor health outcomes."

Removing the Barriers introduces key concepts for providing quality, respectful health care. To date, more than 4,000 North American health care professionals have completed the training.

Marriage inequality and health

In the United States, women are far more likely than men to receive health insurance through a spouse. That may explain why lesbians, who cannot legally marry in 49 states, are last in line when it comes to accessing health care, according to a new study published in the June issue of the American Journal of Public Health by researchers affiliated with Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health.

"Women in same-sex relationships have lower rates of coverage than those in opposite-sex relationships," says lead researcher Julia Heck, who at the time of the study was a fellow at Columbia's Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy. "This may at least be partially attributed to the inability of same-sex couples to form legal partnerships in most states," says Heck, adding that more than 40% of insured women in the United States are covered through another person.

Younger lesbians getting the cancer message

Gay health experts have long known that lesbians exhibit risk factors for breast cancer--such as smoking, never experiencing pregnancy and childbirth, and obesity--at higher rates than their straight counterparts. The good news is that younger lesbians are open to hearing about the dangers of breast cancer, which may lead to better health care for the next generation.

Donna Duncan, executive director of Philadelphia's Linda Creed Breast Cancer Foundation, created the Rainbow Circle outreach program to teach lesbians about breast cancer risks. She and her colleagues have found younger lesbians to be more receptive to outreach than women over 50, who are more often closeted.

That represents a deadly dilemma, Duncan says. "We do not yet know what causes breast cancer and still do not have a cure for breast cancer. What we do know is that early detection and treatment appear to reduce the death rate among women."
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:HEALTH
Author:McManus, Mike
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 29, 2006
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