Those wanting to improve LGBT health need first to think about oppression. That is according to Chicago Department of Public Health (CPDH) Commissioner Dr. Bechara Choucair.
Choucair addressed the 2012 Chicago LGBTQ Health and Wellness Conference held at the Center on Halsted Nov. 30.
Choucair told a theatre full of students that part of the City's approach to cutting down on LGBT health disparities included tackling discrimination.
"When we're thinking about addressing health disparities, we really have to be thinking about social justice issues," Choucair said.
Disparities impacting LGBT people in Chicago include elevated tobacco use, heart disease, obesity, cancer, sexually transmitted diseases, heart disease, violence and lack of access to healthcare. Those disparities result from discrimination, lack of legal protections and a shortage of social programs, Choucair said.
Compounding that problem, said Choucair, is the lack of visibility for LGBT people in healthcare. Often, he said, health providers assume their patients are heterosexual, and LGBTs are not included in many health studies either because researchers don't know how to ask or because LGBT people are reluctant to come out.
Choucair touted the City's efforts tackle those disparities in its "Healthy Chicago" plan, which includes a report on LGBT people (coverage on that report can be viewed at: www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/CDPH-releases-citywide-LGBT-plan/37034.html).
He also reaffirmed the city's commitment to hiring a new director of CDPH's Office of LGBT Health. That position has been empty since June 2010, sparking rumors that the office might close. Choucair said the city is looking to hire for the position soon.
The conference was hosted by Center on Halsted's Sexual Orientation and Gender Institute and the IMPACT Program at Northwestern University.