Findings from the Survey of the Health of Wisconsin (SHOW), a population-based health examination survey, show that there are disparities in health outcomes, healthcare access and quality among LGBT individuals in Wisconsin.

Health disparities between lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and non-LGBT people are well documented and have been studied for decades.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Healthy People 2020 initiative and the Healthiest Wisconsin 2020: State Health Plan both include goals to improve the health of LGBT populations. One of the first steps towards improving LGBT health is including questions about sexual orientation and gender identity in health surveys so the health needs of these populations can be understood and addressed. Often LGBT health research is limited to studies with small sample sizes, which makes it difficult to demonstrate the magnitude of LGBT health disparities.

Only in the past couple of decades have national population-health surveys, such as the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and the National Health Interview Survey, included questions on sexual orientation and gender identity. Additionally, few statewide surveys include these questions. SHOW is a unique population-based health survey, and even more unique in that it is one of the few statewide surveys in the Midwest to include questions on sexual orientation and gender identity.

In 2014, SHOW began collecting information on sexual orientation and gender identity based on the recommended questions published by the Williams Institute. Linn Jennings, MS, an assistant researcher at SHOW and graduate of the Population Health master’s program, is first author of this work summarizing LGBT health outcomes and healthcare access and utilization in Wisconsin published in Preventive Medicine Reports this month.

Key takeaways on LGBT health and health care utilization in Wisconsin

The results of this study indicate that large disparities in health outcomes, access to healthcare services, and quality of healthcare exist for LGBT individuals in Wisconsin.

Compared to non-LGBT individuals, LGBT individuals were over two times more likely to report fair/poor health, LGB individuals were over two times more likely to have a depression diagnosis and to delay obtaining healthcare services, and transgender individuals were almost three times more likely to receive poor quality of healthcare and experience unfair treatment when receiving health care.

As we near 2020, it is clear that LGBT health disparities persist, and in order to address these disparities, healthcare policy changes are needed to achieve health equity for LGBT populations.