There is a funder who frequently says, “Without the data, the chatta don’t matta.” And you know what, they’re right.
That’s why in 2015 and 2016, LGBT community centers across Pennsylvania joined the Pennsylvania Department of Health to measure LGBT health disparities. We didn’t have the local data in Philadelphia, in Erie, in Allentown — data that would demonstrate how an LGBT community in a rural county, or in an urban core, or in our suburban collar counties, fares when it comes to the health of our community.
Three years ago we learned staggering information: LGBT communities experience health disparities in almost every health area. For example, we learned that LGBT people in the Philadelphia area consume illegal drugs at nearly three times the rate of the majority population, consume tobacco at more than double the rate of the majority population and are receiving cancer screenings less frequently than non-LGBT people. The data also told us that LGBT communities are resilient in our desire to lead healthy lives, even in the face of structural barriers to care. LGBT Philadelphians said they wanted information about healthy eating, active living and tobacco cessation. The data that was collected in 2015 and 2016 has informed health programs at LGBT centers throughout Pennsylvania. Data matters because it tells us what to prioritize.
This year, LGBT community organizations across Pennsylvania are again working together to measure LGBT health. We’re doing this for one reason: Our community deserves data. There’s a saying that when we’re not counted, we don’t count, and that’s why this is so important. Together, LGBT centers are collaborating to collect data on the health of our community, and we will use the data to inform our programs and to know where more work is needed.
But we need your help. We need you to be counted. Here is how: Participate in the 2018 Pennsylvania LGBT Health Needs Assessment at bit.ly/pana0318 in order to move toward health equity. n
Adrian Shanker is the executive director
of the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center.
Chris Bartlett is the executive director of the William Way LGBT Community Center.