UCSF Health has been named a “LGBTQ+ Healthcare Equality Leader” by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation for the 15th consecutive year.
The Healthcare Equality Index (HEI) recognizes health care facilities for their dedication to inclusive policies and care for LGBTQ+ patients, visitors and employees. It is released annually by the HRC Foundation, the educational arm of the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization.
UCSF Medical Center was the first major hospital in the nation to participate in the Index when it was created in 2007 and is the only institution to have received Equality Leader status each year since then. The designation is particularly significant now, in light of attempts in multiple states to erode access to safe and supportive care for the LGBTQ+ community, including gender-affirming care for transgender youth.
“Many of us at UCSF chose to work in health care because of the positive impact we can have on people’s lives, especially among communities that may not trust the health care system or face challenges with access to equitable care,” said Suresh Gunasekaran, president and chief executive officer of UCSF Health.
“Health disparities, including those rooted in factors such as sexual orientation, gender identity, race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status, are preventable,” he said. “Our work in health equity will not be done until every patient and family member – and every employee, faculty member and learner – feels they are valued, respected and can receive care or perform their jobs in a welcoming and safe environment.”
HEI participants are scored on more than 60 criteria for LGBTQ+ patient-centered care, including LGBTQ+-specific staff training, patient services and support, employee support and benefits, discrimination protections, and a public commitment to LGBTQ+ equality. To receive Equality Leader status, facilities must document that they meet most of these criteria and that they publicize their commitment to non-discrimination to patients, employees and the general public.
A History of Equity for the LGBTQ+ Community
Well before other health systems and the HEI, UCSF Health extended foundational discrimination protections to LGBTQ+ individuals, providing nation-leading training in LGBTQ+ health needs and developing policies and practices to optimize care for LGBTQ+ people.
UCSF created the first dedicated LGBTQ+ center within a health sciences institution, convened the first annual LGBTQIA Health Forum for health professional students, housed the first and only Lesbian Health Research Center, and helped secure gender-affirming health coverage for all University of California students and employees, the first such coverage at any major U.S. employer.
This year, 496 facilities earned the “LGBTQ+ Healthcare Equality Leader” designation, receiving the maximum score in each section and earning an overall score of 100. An additional 251 facilities earned a “Top Performer” designation, receiving between 80 to 95 points. The foundation noted that 82 percent of the participating facilities scored 80 points or more, indicating that these hospitals are going “beyond the basics” when it comes to adopting policies and practices in LGBTQ+ care. The foundation also proactively researched key policies for LGBTQ+ inclusion at more than 1,300 non-participating hospitals nationwide, where the adoption of best practices is notably lower.
“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. But LGBTQ+ people are often subject to discrimination in all spaces, including healthcare facilities, which leads to members of the community avoiding care and anticipating our voices will not be respected in an incredibly vulnerable environment,” said Tari Hanneman, Director of Health & Aging at The Human Rights Campaign.
“The Healthcare Equality Index, at its core, strives to ensure LGBTQ+ people are protected and affirmed by their healthcare providers and feel safe seeking services,” Hanneman said. “Our HEI active participants are truly pioneering the healthcare industry by implementing robust, comprehensive LGBTQ+ inclusive policies that hopefully, because of their work, will become standard practice.”