Press release #1: How can health care for LGBTI people in the EU improve?
Universities and NGOs from five EU countries have worked closely together in conveying a survey and drafting a report, which could benefit both health professionals and the LGBTI community in their needs
The large majority of health professionals and medical students – 82%, said that they would be interested in participating in training on issues involving LGBTI people and their health. Although this and some other encouraging findings, the research shows that LGBTI people face a range of health inequalities, obstacles to access to care, and discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and gender characteristics.
The comparative report outlines the main findings of the Open Doors research, which provides insights into the understanding, attitudes, experience and training needs of health professionals towards gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans and intersex people as members of society and patients or clients accessing the healthcare system. The report, produced in 2020, was carried via desk research, qualitative research via interviews and quantitative research through online surveys in the five participating countries: Bulgaria, Hungary, Italy, Poland, and Spain.
However, in most of the five countries of the consortium there are not comprehensive plans or policies to overcome these inequalities that directly address LGBTI people and their health needs. In Catalonia/Spain policies and protocols do exist, but they are not fully implemented and enforced resousefully. Actual services provided by the national health systems are lacking and where they exist are very limited in their scope. With exception to Catalonia, the few good practices that exist are not formally adopted and depend on the initiative of individual health professionals, which makes their future uncertain and their transfer to other healthcare providers uncommon.
Results both from interviews and surveys reveal that health professionals have low awareness on LGBTI issues and the specific needs of LGBTI patients. This lack of knowledge, due to lack of training and outdated medical curricula and textbooks, often combined with prejudices against LGBTI people by healthcare providers, represent a significant barrier for building an inclusive and non-discriminatory healthcare for LGBTI people.
Nevertheless, some encouraging findings of the research are worth reporting. The research shows positive attitudes of participants towards LGBTI people: although other studies go in the opposite direction, showing the existence of homo- and transphobia by health professionals (Fisher 2017, Sabin 2015, Fidelindo 2016). These results give hope for a change of mentality in the new generations of respondents.
The vast majority of health professionals declare awareness of the need for training on issues involving LGBTI people and their health, and the willingness to participate in such training. Appropriate training for health professionals is an important step to create an inclusive and comfortable environment for LGBTI people. In addition, national governments should take adequate health policy measures to identify the needs of LGBTI people, improve their health and access to the health system and effectively address discrimination.
Two closely related results of the Open Doors research deserve to be explored further in future studies: the fact that knowing the patient's sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics is not perceived as relevant in order to provide patients with good quality service by the majority of respondents; and the unclear opinion about the specific health needs of LGBTI people.
The report and research were produced as part of the project Open Doors: Promoting Inclusive and Competent Health Care for LGBTI People, co-funded by the European Union’s Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme (2014-2020). The participating organizations are Háttér, Bilitis and GLAS foundation Bulgaria, Università Degli Studi di Brescia (UNIBS), Universitat de Girona (UdG), Surt, Fundacio De Dones Fundacio Privada (SURT) and Lambda Warsaw.
More information about the project could be found at opendoorshealth.eu