Editor’s note: NACHC Senior Writer Erica Weiss sat down with Anthony Fortenberry, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, for a conversation about Pride Month. Fortenberry is the Deputy Executive Director, Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, located in NY, NY, and Chair of NACHC’s LGBTQ+ Health Task Force.
Q: What is the purpose of LGBTQ+ Task Force?
Anthony: In 2006, NACHC convened an LGBTQ+ Health special interest group to focus on LGBTQ+ care in health centers. Since then, they created a formal Task Force to develop opportunities, such as training health center leaders, ensuring LGBTQ+ cultural sensitivity and clinical competency, improving health outcomes for LGBTQ+ communities, and developing an infrastructure to guide an effective response to emerging clinical issues. Today, there are over 30 members representing consumer boards, health centers, and Primary Care Associations who meet throughout the year. It is an honor to serve as Chair.
Q: What are the current challenges facing health centers as they care for LGBTQ+ patients?
Anthony: Approximately 15 percent of LGBTQ+ patients postpone or avoid medical treatment due to discrimination. For transgender patients, this increases to 30 percent. In fact, 1 in 3 transgender patients say they must teach a clinician about transgender care to receive appropriate treatment. LGBTQ+ youth are more than twice as likely to attempt suicide compared to their peers, and they are more likely to experience homelessness.
Older LGBTQ+ adults face health disparities from increased isolation, housing discrimination, and a lack of culturally sensitive social services. Health centers can address these disparities by working to create safe places for patient-centric, holistic, evidence-based care for any patient that walks into the clinic doors.
Q: How are health centers bringing LGBTQ+ patients back to their clinics since the pandemic for routine preventive care like cancer and STI screenings, and PrEP?
Anthony: For many health centers COVID disrupted routine preventative care. As a result, it is important for health centers to get back to basics on patient education and health literacy practices. We must ensure patients have easily accessible information on why routine health screenings are important and how to access them and improve engagement in these important health care services.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like health centers to consider as we celebrate Pride Month?
Anthony: The Community Health Center program was born out of the Civil Rights Movement. As a result, we promote patient empowerment and the idea that everyone deserves access to high-quality health care. I hope this Pride Month helps draw attention to the importance of working to ensure all health center patients have access to the life-saving services provided by Community Health Centers.