Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes
SALT LAKE CITY — Five University of Utah Health hospitals received high marks in the Human Rights Campaign Foundation's Healthcare Equality Index, each earning a spot as LGBTQ Healthcare Equality Leaders.
The index is considered one of the nation's foremost benchmarking surveys of a health care facility's practices and policies regarding LGBTQ patients, visitors and employees. It evaluates facilities on various criteria regarding the care and treatment of LGBTQ patients, employees and community engagement.
A record 906 health care facilities participated in the nationwide survey, with 496 of them earning designation as a leader. Among those 496 are University of Utah Hospital, Craig H. Neilsen Rehabilitation Hospital, University Orthopaedic Center, Huntsman Cancer Institute and Huntsman Mental Health Institute.
"It is an honor for University of Utah Health to be acknowledged as an LGBTQ+ Equality Leader," U. Health CEO Dr. Michael Good, said in a news release. "As an institution, we are dedicated to inclusivity, as it is vital in our ability to deliver quality health care. Inclusivity is the social fabric of the university. We strive to see, hear and support people of all backgrounds."
The designation can help Utahns of the LGBTQ community feel safer in seeking health care, said Utah Pride Center's Kevin Randall.
"We in the LGBTQ+ community often will share with one another whose doctor we're working with and whether or not they are receptive to us and often the name of that doctor will spread," Randall said. "To learn that the University of Utah has this score from the Human Rights Campaign means a lot. It means we can we know we can go there for quality health care."
The need for increased access to LGBTQ-inclusive health care facilities and services may rise with recent legislation nationwide, he added.
"Members of the LGBTQ+ community — especially our youth here in Utah — are at higher risk of suicide," said Randall. "And given the fact that recently there have been bills designed to discriminate against transgender kids, for example, HB11, what it does is it just feeds this discrimination across the board even in our health care system."
Suicide is the leading cause of death for youth and young adults in Utah ages 10 to 24, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Utah has also consistently ranked among the top-10 states for the highest suicide mortality rates. Rates of suicidal ideology and attempts are amplified among the LGBTQ community.
In addition, Mental Health America found that:
- LGBTQ teens are six times more likely to experience symptoms of depression than non-LGBTQ identifying teens.
- LGBTQ youth are more than twice as likely to feel suicidal and more than four times as likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual youth.
- 48% of transgender adults report that they have considered suicide in the last year, compared to 4% of the overall U.S. population.
"Like with any identity, feeling different — or worse, unaccepted as you are — is a significant risk factor for mental health struggles," Dr. Anna Docherty, assistant professor of psychiatry at Huntsman Mental Health Institute, said in a release. "The truth is, most of us experience some significant anxiety or depression in our lifetimes, and we often manage this with social support. Without adequate social support and acceptance, mental health is quite difficult to maintain."
Mental health struggles among LGBTQ youth and adults are a part of existing U. Health initiatives centered around diversity, equity and inclusion.
Another 251 of the participating health care facilities earned a "Top Performer" designation, which means they scored 80 points or higher in the criteria categories. The results of the survey revealed progress.
While the survey marked progress, research conducted by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation into nonparticipating health care facilities found 1,300 of them were less likely to have anti-discriminatory policies in place.
"Every person deserves to have access to quality health care, be respected and heard by their doctor, and feel safe in the facility where they are receiving care," said Tari Hanneman, director of health and aging at the Human Rights Campaign. "But LGBTQ+ people are often subject to discrimination in all spaces, including health care facilities, which leads to members of the community avoiding care and anticipating our voices will not be respected in an incredibly vulnerable environment."