A Conversation with Liz Margolies, LCSW
Posted on October 7, 2011, 9:45 AM
The Founder and Director of the National LGBT Cancer Network, on the importance of cancer care in the LGBT community.
What does the National LGBT Cancer Network Do?
We try and make a difference in the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people with cancer and those who are at risk. We do that through educating the LGBT community about our increased cancer risks, training health care workers on how to provide safe and welcoming care, and by advocating nationally for LGBT survivors.
Why do you feel that the country needs a National LGBT Cancer Network?
As a group, we have increased risks coupled with lower screening rates, and poorer overall health post diagnosis. The increased risks can be traced to the stress of living as sexual and gender minorities - including increase in tobacco and alcohol use compared to the non-LGBT population. The LGBT community has some of the lowest percentages of insured individuals. Many are not vigilant about screening because they avoid the healthcare system due to the bias they experience.
How is the National LGBT Cancer Network advocating to make seeking healthcare a safer experience for the community?
One of the things we’re doing is trying to create a national network of healthcare providers who are sensitive to the issues surrounding this community. Right now, we have that network in New York City. We just received funding to expand our directory to include LGBT-friendly free or low cost facilities across the country, and we’re working to make sure that the doctors on the list have the proper cultural competence training.
What is the Cultural Competence Curriculum?
We’ve developed a training program to help healthcare providers give more respectful, welcoming, and knowledgeable care. We were selected by the NYC Health and Hospitals Corporation to train all 38,000 of their employees, and we’ve turned the curriculum into an out-of-the-box training program for any healthcare professional or hospital system.
What advice would you give to someone reading this article?
Well, despite what people think, it’s still very difficult to live as an LGBT person - even somewhere as progressive as NYC - and we all have to do our part to help each other. One thing you can do is encourage the LGBT person in your life to go get screened for cancer. If you are LGBT and seeking healthcare, my advice is don’t give up on finding a health care provider that is right for you. If you have a problem, contact us and we’ll help. That’s why we’re here. http://www.cancer-network.org/
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