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Zed Tintor of LGBTIQ+ Health Australia on addressing the barriers in the healthcare sector

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The LGBTIQ+ community has long struggled to have the same rights as those outside of the community enjoy, and this struggle is no more pronounced than it is in the healthcare sector. 

Healthcare Channel has reached out to LGBTIQ+ Health Australia Deputy CEO Zed Tintor to share their insights and experience on the issues the community has dealt with in Australia’s healthcare sector. 

Zed Tintor has worked in the not-for-profit community service sector for thirty years, specializing in homelessness, housing, and mental health. They are an expert on values-based leadership, business and strategic development, policy development and cross-sector collaboration.  

Zed has also previously sat on a variety of Boards, including President Gender Centre Inc and The Settlement Neighbourhood Centre. They are currently a Board Director for Suicide Prevention Australia. 

In this interview, Zed explains the barriers that they and their organisation face in helping the LGBTIQ+ community in receiving proper health services. 

HCC: What are the common barriers that the LGBTIQ+ community face in the healthcare sector?

Zed: Evidence overwhelmingly shows that LGBTIQ+ people experience significant health and well-being disparities compared to the general population.

The poorer health outcomes can primarily be attributed to the impact of minority stress—the chronic stressors to which LGBTIQ+ people are uniquely exposed because of sexuality, gender and bodily diversity being socially stigmatised. This includes discrimination, social exclusion, harassment and physical violence.

For LGBTIQ+ people who live at the intersections of additional marginalised identities and experiences, these health inequities can be compounded by racism, ableism, and other forms of discrimination.

Studies have shown that LGBTIQ+ people underutilise health services and can delay seeking health advice due to actual or anticipated experiences of stigma and discrimination from service providers, resulting in reduced screening for physical and mental health conditions and acceleration of health issues.

Anticipated discrimination can mean LGBTIQ+ people do not fully disclose important information about themselves and their health needs.

Many LGBTIQ+ people prefer to access practitioners and services that are inclusive and have a deep understanding of their lived experiences.

HCC: What struggles did your organisation endure when spreading awareness on LGBTIQ+ health needs?

Zed: Current systems are failing LGBTIQ+ communities. Disparities will remain if LGBTIQ+ health and wellbeing continue to be sidelined in policy and service planning, underfunded and under-resourced.

LGBTIQ+ people are rightly identified as a priority population in a range of existing national health and wellbeing strategies, however, there is currently a lack of national coordination of goals and targets.

Despite evidence of best practice showing that many health interventions and programs are best delivered by people and communities with lived experience, investment in LGBTIQ+ people’s health is often funnelled into larger mainstream organisations at the cost of community-controlled health organisations that are best placed to deliver inclusive and culturally safe care to LGBTIQ+ people and work with insufficient resourcing.

Fundamental change is needed to include LGBTIQ+ people and communities in national structures and systems. Inclusion would see progress towards addressing the disparities and inequities experienced by LGBTIQ+ people and communities.

To address this, LGBTIQ+ Health Australia has called for a 10-year National LGBTIQ+ Health and Wellbeing Action Plan that draws upon priority actions from existing national strategies and identifies key gaps, with resourcing to place lived experience at the centre of implementation, especially community-controlled health services.

HCC: How has LGBTIQ+ Health Australia aided the community in gaining proper access to health services and the right engagement with healthcare workers?

Zed: LGBTIQ+ communities are diverse and have different needs. For example, trans and gender-diverse people or people with intersex variations may require specialised services.

Community-controlled organisations which are governed and operated by and for LGBTIQ+ communities are often best placed to provide services. Peer support, especially by people with lived experience, is a unique attraction of community-controlled organisations and a deeply valued form of support.

People who have experienced stigma and discrimination anticipate LGBTIQ+ community-controlled services will provide culturally safe services.

LGBTIQ+ community-controlled organisations, such as LGBTIQ+ Health Australia’s full members, are also essential for providing capacity building and training to generalist organisations to deliver safe and inclusive mainstream services for LGBTIQ+ individuals and communities.

The combination of LGBTIQ+ community-controlled health and wellbeing organisations with safe and inclusive mainstream service pathways is essential for appropriate choice in health care and delivering a ‘no wrong door’ approach where clients are referred to a service best equipped to provide for their needs.

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