Creating Safe Spaces in Medicine for the LGBTQ Community

Parsley Health
June 1, 2021

A doctor’s visit should be a safe, supportive, and inclusive experience for everyone. Full stop. Your time with your doctor is when you can open up about your past, present, and future health goals and have a partner to guide you along on your journey.

“The more places you can carve out in your life that feel safe, the better off you are. That’s the basis of community, and we want to extend that feeling of safety to your medical care,” says Sarah Steinberg, MD, PhD , a physician at Parsley Health .

Unfortunately, medical encounters are not always positive experiences, particularly for those in the LGBTQ community. A 2020 survey of 1,528 self-identified LGBTQ adults from the Center for America Progress found that 20 percent of respondents had experienced some form of negative and/or discriminatory treatment from a doctor or health care provider in the last year and 15 percent had actually postponed or avoided necessary medical care because of discrimination. Among transgender individuals, that number was even higher, with 28 percent postponing medical care. 40 percent of transgender individuals also reported postponing preventive screenings because of disrespect or discrimination in a healthcare setting.

The lack of psychological safety for the LGBTQ community has widened health disparities: We know that people in the LGBTQ community are more likely to develop chronic conditions or cancers because they’re less likely to seek preventative care, explains Steinberg.

Parsley Health’s approach to care is about making sure every patient feels seen and heard for who they truly are, because we believe that’s how we deliver the best possible medicine. When you feel safe, you can be vulnerable, offering important insights your medical team can use to tailor your care. And the science agrees: Research has shown the doctor-patient relationship has a statistically significant effect on healthcare outcomes.

“One of the fundamental differences with the type of medicine we practice at Parsley is that we’re really trying to get the full story and understand how that contributed to a patient’s health,” says Dr. Steinberg. That means not just looking at how each system of the body, from cardiovascular to gastrointestinal, is working, but how all of the pieces connect together, including mental wellbeing .

As Dr. Steinberg explains, “Many people have had moments where they’ve felt like they don’t fit in, but for people who are LGBTQ or for people of color, that feeling doesn’t just come in isolated moments, it can be more of a constant backdrop. Our approach at Parsley is to create a safe, non-judgemental space for people’s stories .”

It also helps providers to understand what may be contributing to something like a digestive issue or inflammation . “When people live through stressful or traumatic events, it impacts their health. As providers, our goal is to retrace those steps to see how life events have shaped physical and psychological wellbeing.”

Parsley acknowledges that society’s response to individual genders and sexualities can be incredibly impactful on health, whether negative or positive, and we are here to be part of every member’s health journey .

Parsley Health

Parsley Health is the doctor that helps you live healthier, longer, by treating the root cause of symptoms and conditions. Our medical teams—staffed by leading clinicians and health coaches—spend more time with you, order the right tests, and prescribe food, sleep and movement alongside medications so you can get better—and feel better.

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