In conjunction with National Heart Month, the Mautner Project for Lesbian Health released 'The Heart Truth for Lesbians,' the first national heart health awareness campaign targeted to women who partner with women.
'Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in the U.S., and lesbians may be at even greater risk than heterosexual women,' said Mautner Project Executive Director Kathleen DeBold. Many of the factors that increase a woman's risk for heart disease—such as obesity, smoking, and lack of exercise—are prevalent in the lesbian community. Stress is also a major risk factor for women, and lesbians bear the added stress of anti-gay discrimination.
There are also many barriers—including lack of health insurance, provider ignorance and institutionalized homophobia—that keep lesbians from receiving fair and equal access to quality healthcare. In addition, the lack of specific health education programs targeted specifically to lesbians hinders lesbians seeking appropriate medical advice.
'Most mainstream health interventions do not use media, messages or messengers that are effective in reaching the lesbian community, especially those of us who identify as butch or androgynous,' said DeBold.
'Although the federal government increasingly recognized the health needs of lesbians and gays in the 1990s, since the 2000 election there has been a definite backward shift,' said DeBold.
In 1999, The Institute of Medicine released a report, Lesbian Health: Current Assessment and Directions for the Future, that clearly documented the healthcare disparities affecting lesbians. Health and Human Service's (HHS) blueprint for the nation's health, Healthy People 2010 (released in 2000), includes sexual orientation as a marker of health disparities.
In contrast, The National Healthcare Quality Report and the National Healthcare Disparities Report, both issued last month by the HHS Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, do not mention the health of lesbians or gays.
'We are being treated as 'the underserved population that dare not speak its name,' commented DeBold.
The Mautner Project's 'Heart Truth for Lesbians' is a registered activity of the HHS Heart Truth campaign for women, though the group has received no government funding.
The Mautner Project has partnered with GayHealth.com to help maximize the Heart Truth for Lesbians effectiveness on line.