This internet browser is outdated and does not support all features of this site. Please switch or upgrade to a different browser to display this site properly.

Significant LGBTIQA+ stigma remains in WA healthcare system, study finds

Friday 17 May 2024 | By Samuel Jeremic
Image for Significant LGBTIQA+ stigma remains in WA healthcare system, study finds

A new Curtin University report commissioned by Living Proud has revealed the significant challenges LGBTIQA+ people often face accessing healthcare and calls for long-term funding and action across state government to ensure all Western Australians can access essential services and treatments.

Ongoing experiences of stigma, discrimination and exclusion continue to impact on the health and social outcomes for LGBTIQA+ people in Western Australia, highlighting ongoing lack of action to address health disparities in these communities.

Released on the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, the report shares findings from Curtin’s Collaboration for Evidence Research and Impact in Public Health (CERIPH), which collected data on Western Australia’s LGBTIQA+ community’s experiences accessing healthcare, what supports are in place and what more needs to be done.

Study lead Dr Jonathan Hallett said LGBTIQA+ people still faced discrimination when accessing healthcare.

“There have been improvements in the healthcare system, but when we spoke to study participants they were still sharing some really awful stories of direct stigma, or a lack of understanding or assumptions about their lives,” Dr Hallett said.

“We heard of people visiting GPs or health services for a particular issue which had absolutely nothing to do with their gender identity or sexuality, but that topic still became the focus of the discussion.

“One participant was so fearful of how they’d be treated if they accessed a mainstream regional health service that their condition ended up worsening and landed them in emergency.”

CERIPH collaborated on the report with Living Proud, with funding from the WA Primary Health Alliance.

Living Proud Chair Barry Cosker said it addressed a critical need for comprehensive, evidence-based insights to help vulnerable people overcome significant health and wellbeing challenges.

“We believe this report will help usher in a new, informed approach to understanding and responding to LGBTIQA+ health needs and priorities in Western Australia,” Mr Cosker said.

“It will assist policy direction and strategic planning across the entire primary healthcare ecosystem, forming a foundation for future efforts to reduce the health and wellbeing disparities the LGBTIQA+ community continues to experience.”

While there are many LGBTIQA+-specific resources available, the report found they were often community and volunteer-driven, which limited the ability to adequately reach everyone who needed their services.

“These organisations have a really strong understanding of what the community needs, but they’re also incredibly under-resourced,” Dr Hallett said.

“These are crucial services, but they aren’t being sufficiently supported.

“They need secure, long-term government funding so they can provide services to all who need them, including in regional areas where LGBTIQA+ people experience even greater inequity and barriers to accessing appropriate and safe healthcare.”

Findings also identified significant gaps in the way data on LGBTIQA+ people is collected and reported, particularly in relation to trans and non-binary people and those with variations of sex characteristics.

“The quality of data is still lacking, rendering LGBTIQA+ communities invisible and undermining service planning in many areas,” Dr Hallett said.

The report calls for wide-spread adoption of Australian Bureau of Statistics standards to increase data quality and enhance LGBTIQA+ communities’ visibility in health and social service data.

It also highlights the need to encourage more LGBTIQA+ people into the health workforce and calls for improved training for current and future professionals so they can provide quality care to the LGBTIQA+ community.