June 22, 2023
ACHP is proud to recognize and celebrate the efforts and achievements made by members of the LGBTQ+ community during Pride Month. June provides us all a time to reflect on the unique needs and lived experiences of members of this community and the work that has been done to secure and protect individual freedoms. Improving health equity is at the core of ACHP’s mission – ACHP member companies are deeply ingrained in their communities and are working each day to close gaps in care among their communities. We are proud to champion equality and LGBTQ+ rights by sharing thoughts from people such as Fallon Health’s Katie Acker on the importance of promoting a culture of diversity and inclusivity.
I am the Health Equity Program Manager at Fallon Health. Even without the title, it’s hard to not be always thinking about the incredible barriers so many people face when improving, accessing or even maintaining their health and well-being. I work with departments across my entire organization to look at where inequities exist, who they impact and collaborate to design and strengthen solutions to not only improve health outcomes but also our members’ and communities’ experiences with health care. I am also proud to be part of the LGBTQ+ community and recognize the role my own lived experiences can— and do— play as I continue to advance our health equity work.
Although I can check my diversity box, I am also aware of the privileges I have as a cis-gender, white female that have allowed me to essentially choose when I want my diversity check box to be visible or known. This is important for me to recognize as I think of my work and life in the context of what it means to be “living authentically.” In both my professional and personal life, living authentically means being present and visible within my communities and honoring my lived experiences as someone who identifies as a lesbian. It means using my voice and the privilege I do have to always bring an extra seat or two to the tables I am at. And it means always being willing to be a channel for those who are not yet ready, comfortable or safe to advocate for themselves or their community.
From an equity perspective, our health care systems have a lot they can do to reach and have positive impacts for members of my LGBTQ+ community. Our health care system must continue to acknowledge that we are a part of a long history of implementing poor policies that target certain populations on top of deep-rooted bias, both unconscious and explicit. This bias and prejudice continue today. And we need to rebuild and maintain trust among many communities, including LGBTQ+. As we do, we need to be aware of what people are hearing and seeing happen that targets their community. For the LGBTQ+ community that is drag show bans, restrictions on gender-affirming care, book bans and much more. Regardless of your opinion of these— and regardless of whether or not they impact your state or region directly— I guarantee it has a profound impact on your LGBTQ+ neighbor, colleague or patient. Understanding discomfort, hesitation or mistrust and how to navigate and validate these is important to effectively communicating with the communities we serve to have meaningful impacts and build trust.
In 2020, I was at an appointment for an ultrasound and before the technician began, they asked, “is your husband joining today?” I had so many thoughts. Do I just play along, smile and nod? If I correct them, will they treat me differently? Will they stop talking to me and be awkward or uncomfortable? Will they ask incredibly intrusive questions about how I am pregnant? Will they not want to do the ultrasound because my “lifestyle” goes against their religious beliefs? This went on in my mind all because they used one word that I’m sure was simply automatic to them. I share these quick examples of how easily and often communities, like the LGBTQ+ community can experience discomfort when accessing health care. Simply using a different word or thinking about how we respond to a vulnerable patient can have powerful impacts.
I am very proud of who I am today. I know my identity has made me a stronger person. I would love the opportunity to meet my younger self. First, I would give her a warning about 2020! Then, I’d encourage her to continue being who she is and to never stop forming and sharing her opinions because she will do some pretty cool work!