All major federal agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and US Department of Health and Human Services, recognize lesbian health as an area of focus.
However, despite the attention to addressing lesbian health issues from both clinical and research perspectives, visibility has been shadowed in the last decade.
UCSF’s Lesbian Health & Research Center (LHRC) is among those leading the way to work with President Obama’s administration to advance lesbian health. This weekend, the center is convening leaders from around the country for a three-day summit.
The National Lesbian Health Summit, which starts today (March 6) and runs through Sunday, March 8, brings together thought leaders from around the nation to examine issues of lesbian health research, policy and clinical care. The summit is open to the public. For more information, visit the LHRC website
“Our main intention is to reinvigorate the lesbian and queer women’s health movement,” said Diane Sabin, DC, executive director of LHRC and one of the main summit organizers. ”The National Lesbian Health Summit will expand our perspective of health to recognize it as an individual reality, a community phenomenon and a vehicle for social change.”
LHRC is supported by the UCSF schools of nursing and medicine and by the National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health (CoE). Among the goals of LHRC is to enhance the level of scientific research by ensuring the inclusion of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population in the demographics of research projects and providing state-of-the-art training for health workers.
The support LHRC receives is an example of how collaboration between schools is helping the University achieve its strategic plan by fostering innovation and collaboration and translating discoveries into improved health.
“The creation of new knowledge and using that knowledge to improve the health of those we serve are at the core of the University’s mission,” said Kathleen Dracup, RN, DNSc, professor and dean of the School of Nursing. “We are very proud to have founded the Lesbian Health & Research Center to address the health disparities of this underserved population.”
In part, the idea is to recognize lesbian health as a vulnerable population among women.
“The National Lesbian Health Summit is another step in creating health systems and programs that address a unique population,” said Dixie Horning, executive director of the CoE.
The summit focuses special attention on the unique concerns of underserved lesbians within the larger lesbian population. Many of the sessions focus on the issues of race, age, gender and sexual orientation that are unique to vulnerable groups among lesbians.
The summit culminates on International Women’s Day, which has been recognized since 1911 as a means to celebrate the economic, social and political achievements of women. This year’s theme is “Women and Men United to End Violence Against Women and Girls.” The global celebration raises attention to issues of health disparity that exist among women, especially those who are part of vulnerable populations.
UCSF leaders hope the summit allows attendees to explore the complexities of health, based on the World Health Organization definition: “the complete state of physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
Several of the keynote speakers lead organizations that work on raising awareness of human rights issues faced by lesbians – not only in the United States, but globally, in nations where there is little protection on a policy level. In part, the summit connects local action taking place at UCSF to the future global impact it can have, especially through progress in working with the new Obama administration.
Speakers include Sandra R. Hernández, MD, chief executive officer of
the San Francisco Foundation and former director of public health of the city and county of San Francisco.
“This is the first summit to address lesbian health issues through a social justice frame,” said Hernández. “The planners have designed panels and workshops that are appealing to a broad audience of policy experts and practitioners. It has the potential to take the movement to the next level beyond personal health, to a public health and societal wellness agenda.”
UCSF Strategic Plan