The Health4LGBTI project, a key tool towards respectful and inclusive healthcare
Sophie Aujean, ILGA Europe Senior Policy and Programmes Officer
“I had psychiatry course, child psychiatry course. And I was brought and given a book. I was told: “Read it, it is our Bible”. It is a bible of psychiatry. And in this text book there was a description of homosexuality… It stated it is a disease. It is a book from Soviet times and at the moment medical students still use it to study and consult teenagers brought to crisis intervention unit”.
Quote extracted from an interview with a Lithuanian healthcare practitioner identifying as an LGBTI person.
A bit more than two years ago, ILGA-Europe embarked in a great project called Health4LGBTI and aiming to raise awareness of the health inequalities and barriers faced by LGBTI people and to equip health professionals with relevant tools to overcome these. As part of a consortium led by the Verona University Hospital, and including EuroHealthNet, the University of Brighton and the National Institute of Public Health-National Institute of Hygiene in Poland, we published a state-of-the-art study on the health inequalities experienced by LGBTI people, which also clearly identified the barriers health professionals face in providing LGBTI people with appropriate healthcare. The main findings can be found here. Focus groups were undertaken in 6 EU member states to map barriers faced both by LGBTI people and healthcare professionals.
In a second step, project partners set out to develop training modules and a trainers’ manual to better equip health professionals to provide healthcare to LGBTI people. The training package was piloted in the 6 countries to assess their effectiveness. Throughout all project stages ILGA-Europe relied very much on member organisations’ expertise and input and this is another opportunity for us to warmly thank you all for the great work and involvement.
We know they can make a difference
The training package is now finally available! It is the first time that training modules have been developed by LGBTI activists, academics and health experts together at European level. They have been piloted in different contexts and in all countries, the evaluation has shown that knowledge, attitudes and skills of healthcare trainees had improved after the training. We truly hope that the trainings can have a real impact on the ground and can support LGBTI organisations in their ongoing work of awareness-raising and sensitisation of health care professionals regarding the discrimination LGBTI people still face when visiting a doctor or entering a hospital today. We will from our end work closely with EU institutions, the Council of Europe, health organisations and other partners to identify and make use of all possible opportunities to disseminate the training package. And we do hope you will find the training a useful resource too.
What can you do as LGBTI activists and organisations at national and local level?
1) Ensure the training are available in your language
In order to become a useful resource on national level, it is key that the materials are available in your national language. Do you have creative ideas how to ensure translations, maybe through the help of public bodies, health organisations or pro bono support?
2) Start discussing with you ministry of health how to make the best use of the project’s tools
All the information provided within the project, offers a strong argument for the need to train health professionals on LGBTI issues and thus hopefully is an opportunity for you to get in touch with health ministries, health organisation and medical universities and present them with the findings and request to discuss together necessary next steps. Make the case, present them the findings of the state-of-the-art study, share quotes from the focus groups and interviews, and most importantly refer them to the positive feedback from piloting the trainings.
3) Form partnerships for sensitization trainings
The training modules and the trainer manual have been developed in a way to ensure that trainers can just take the material provided and start running trainings. Feedback however has clearly shown that training conducted in cooperation between LGBTI organisations and health professionals were most accepted and effective. We encourage trainers to team up and plan together. We are more than happy to connect activists interested in making use of the training package and to support them.
The project clearly confirmed that discrimination in health care provision is still significant and widespread. WE hope that the information and material produced in the framework of the HEALTH4LGBTI can support the great day-to-day work of activists across Europe to eliminate all discriminatory legislation, policies and practices in the area of health and to ensure LGBTI people have access to appropriate and patient-centered healthcare systems that fully meet their health needs, without their identities being pathologised or their bodies medicalised. The road is still long and this project is only one element to drive us there. Together with you, we want to ensure that is will be a very helpful one!