51 posts categorized "Health & Wellness"

April 8, 2016

Accelerating Health Equity for Diverse Elders

This post originally appeared on Diverse Elders Coalition on April 4th, 2016. Read the original post here.

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April is National Minority Health Month! We join the US Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health in recognizing the health disparities that continue to affect diverse communities across the United States. Ample research suggests that communities of color in the United States face barriers to health and greater health disparities when compared to white communities, including availability and affordability healthy food, incidence of diabetes, rates of HIV infection, access to healthcare, and the use and abuse of tobacco and alcohol, just to name a few.

The stress of our nation’s history of racism and exclusion also impacts our communities’ health. Studies examining the role of social and biological stress on health suggests a link between socioeconomic status and ethnic disparities in stress and health. Our diverse elders have survived Jim Crow, redlining, WWII internment, unfair and unsafe working conditions, inadequate healthcare, deportation, and incarceration, among others, which has no doubt impacted their health and wellbeing in their later years.

Discrimination and health disparities impact our LGBT elders, too. As detailed in a recent article in The Advocate, nearly one-quarter of adults who are LGBT say that they have been unfairly stopped, searched, questioned, physically threatened or abused by the police, and a third say they have been unfairly not hired for a job. Other forms of discrimination reported by LGBT respondents include day-to-day discrimination such as being threatened or harassed, receiving poorer service than others, or being treated with less courtesy or respect.

All of this is to say that the Diverse Elders Coalition values the health of our communities and is working at the grassroots and at the policymaker levels to eliminate the disparities that our elders of color, American Indian/Alaska Native elders, and LGBT elders fight against every day. The work of the Diverse Elders Coalition and our five member groups around HIV and aging, healthcare reform, immigration and digital storytelling all support the health and wellbeing of our communities. We want all of our elders – and future generations of elders – to live long, happy, healthy lives.

Join the HHS Office of Minority Health for an online Health Equity forum, this Thursday, April 7th at 1:30pm EDT to learn more about the health disparities facing our communities, and stay tuned to our blog, Facebook, and Twitter for more ways we’re commemorating National Minority Health Month.

Jenna McDavid is the communications and logistics associate at Diverse Elders Coalition (DEC). 

March 28, 2016

Getting In The Game at the 2016 Aging in America Conference

By Ben de Guzman 

This post originally appeared on Diverse Elders Coalition on March 25, 2016. Read the original post here.

The Diverse Elders Coalition and its five member organizations had a large presence at this year’s Aging in America Conference, which wrapped up last week in Washington, DC. Coincidentally, aging issues in America got a boost at the same time, as the U.S. House of Representatives took a critical vote on the Older Americans Act. While it was exciting to be in the same space as thousands of other people in the aging network while this major legislative hurdle was passed, the conference itself offered reminders of how much work there is still left to do to make sure diverse elders and their needs are being served. 

AiapicWith over 21 sessions, the DEC and its member organizations offered a wide range of programming on the issues of concern for its constituencies. From housing to economic security to healthy aging, the expertise of our member organizations was well represented. On Monday, I had the pleasure of moderating a great conversation about cultural competence with representatives of four of our member groups. Randella Bluehouse from the National Indian Council on Aging (NICOA), Dr. Wes Lum from the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging (NAPCA), Maria Eugenia Hernandez Lane from the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA), and Sherrill Wayland from Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) gave concrete examples of how their work is particularly tailored to their constituencies as testament to the need to provide culturally and linguistically appropriate services. As someone who started his career in DC working on cultural competence in health care settings, it was interesting to revisit this space with my colleagues across our coalition and learn about their work.

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SAGE staff at ASA 2016.

Our Symposium on Tuesday, “Getting in the Game: Diverse Elders and Civic Engagement,” was an opportunity for the five principals who lead our member organizations to come together on stage to talk collectively about their work and the constituencies we serve. The election year and the current candidates vying for President have been a topic of conversation throughout the conference, and our Symposium allowed our presenters an opportunity to talk about what it will mean to mobilize our communities during this important time. The principals were also able to make some of the first public statements since the House of Representatives announced their vote in favor of Senate Bill 192, the Older Americans Act, without opposition. While recognizing the importance this legislation has for all our communities, we noted our organizations’ policy recommendations about how to make this legislation more inclusive for diverse elders. From better data collection, to more explicit provisions around culturally competent service delivery, to stronger anti-discrimination language, our organizations have been at the forefront of working for an Older Americans Act that will truly serve ALL older Americans.

Quyen Dinh, Executive Director of the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC), perhaps best summed up the challenges and opportunities our elders face when she introduced herself at the Symposium. She noted that although she came to this country as the daughter of refugees from Vietnam and talked about the ongoing challenges older refugees face such as post-traumatic stress, she was clear about being a child of war and one descended from a line of warriors. Their resilience in the face of dire adversity is what allows them to survive and what inspires us to do more for them so they can thrive.

 

March 23, 2016

Dreaming At Any Age

by Marsha Aizumi. This article originally appeared in the Pacific Citizen.

Almost five years ago I retired from a 13-year job that I loved. It was time. And it was also frightening. Work gave me purpose and a place to belong. Would I find that same fulfillment now as a retired person? I had decided to write a book about my journey with my transgender son and also I seemed to be moving in the direction of becoming something I knew nothing about: an LGBTQ activist. Sometimes you just have to follow your heart and take a leap of faith. So that is what I did.

During these past five years, I have learned that my greatest power lies in being myself. I have also learned that age puts no limitations on what you can do. Everything is a choice. For the first part of my life, I really didn’t know what being myself was. I was a perfectionist, because I never wanted to be wrong. And if I was perfect, nobody would criticize me. But often being perfect and expecting perfection from others gave neither of us room to grow and make mistakes. And it also put a tremendous amount of pressure on me. I didn’t risk taking on anything where I could fail and so I never took on things that could expand who I was as a person.

I was often afraid to speak out for fear of offending others and having them judge me as a terrible employee, mother or human being. At work, my bosses would encourage me to share my thoughts and not be so invisible. I tried to be visible, but at the first hint of disapproval I would quietly move into invisibility once again. Not being seen seemed safer.

And then Aiden, my son, came out as transgender and my world was turned upside down. Something inside of me changed. I could no longer think about myself; I needed to think about him. No longer could I go through life casually seeing how every day would unfold for me. No, I had to make each day count. I had to courageously step out, most of the time being scared of saying or doing the wrong thing, but doing it anyway. Brene Brown, author of #1 New York Times bestseller Daring Greatly says, “You can be brave and scared at the same time.” Most of the time, you didn’t have to tell me I was scared. I felt that inside. But brave was a whole new concept. If I was scared and I did it anyway, that was brave?

In the beginning I made a lot of mistakes. I said the wrong thing, but I learned the power of saying “I’m sorry.” I did wrong things and learned the power of asking, “How can I do it better next time?” Sometimes people did or said hurtful things to me. And I learned the power of saying, “I know you didn’t mean to hurt me, but when you said that about my son, my heart felt bad.” In most cases, I was forgiven, or given better ways to handle things or was apologized to. In all cases, I walked away understanding more, feeling prouder of myself or realizing how I could do things better in the future. The hard part of apologizing, asking how I could do better or sharing my feelings was that most of the time, I felt like a lobster without a shell. Later I found out that was how you feel when you are being vulnerable.

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Marsha speaking at the HRC Time to Thrive Conference in February 2016. Photo by Steph Grant Photography.

 

But being vulnerable has helped me grow and provided me gifts that I never thought would come into my life as a retiree. Authentically sharing my journey of transitioning with my transgender son, I have met so many beautiful people all over the country. And taking on challenges like speaking to larger and larger crowds, even though I was scared, has given me a purpose greater than I thought I would have. Last month, I spoke in Chicago at a conference called Creating Change. At the end of the workshop, I stopped a young lady who left our presentation crying. “Are you okay?” I asked as she walked past me. “Yes,” she replied, “I am walking out with hope.” Two weeks later I spoke to 800 educators and professionals in Dallas. I was scared going on stage, but I just kept telling myself just keep your heart open and be yourself. At the end, they gave me a standing ovation.

I think what I want to share with you today is that you are NEVER too old to go out and make a difference. Forget your age… find your passion! Go out and share who you authentically are. If you are not sure what your life can look like if you do this, rent a movie called “The Intern” with Robert DeNiro and Anne Hathaway. Or google the name Virginia McLaurin, a 106-year-old lady who started a social media campaign at age 104 to meet President Obama and dreamed of being invited to the White House. The video of their meeting has gone viral and inspired so many! We are never too old to bring value to the lives of others. And we are never too old to dream.

Marsha Aizumi is the author of “Two Spirits, One Heart” and is on the PFLAG National Board of Directors. Learn more about her at www.marshaaizumi.com.
January 27, 2016

Rage Against the Dying of the Light: Aging from Diverse Perspectives

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Vega Subramaniam shares her story on caregiving.

SAGE was proud to be presenting on a panel with our partners in the Diverse Elders Coalition at Creating Change, taking place last week in Chicago. The panel entitled, “Rage Against the Dying of the Light: Aging from Diverse Perspectives,” discussed the specific needs that diverse elders have as they age and whether current programs, services, supports, and laws allow us to meet the needs of these growing and intersecting populations. It delved into a variety of “isms” and phobias, from racism and ageism to transphobia and biphobia. And it explored what we can do at the federal, state, and local levels to address the myriad challenges and opportunities diverse aging presents.

 

As SAGE’s point person on federal affairs, I talked about what the federal government can do to address the unique challenges faced by LGBT older adults. As a population that faces pronounced social isolation, higher poverty rates than their non-LGBT counterparts, and at the same time, diminished access to culturally competent services, supports, and healthcare, our federal government can and should do more. It has the tools to address the chasm that exists between the greater need and the lower likelihood of this population accessing the critical services and supports they need to remain independent.

What can be done? As Congress works to reauthorize the Older Americans Act (OAA), it can include language proposed by Senator Michael Bennet and Representative Patrick Murphy that would target LGBT older adults for services and supports and hold the aging network accountable for reaching them – all by designating LGBT older adults a group of “Greatest Social Need.” Read more about our recommendations on updating the OAA via our latest policy report: Updating the Older Americans Act: Why Do LGBT Older Adults Need Support?

In the meantime, the Obama Administration can help as well. The Administration on Aging can require states to evaluate whether they are meeting the needs of LGBT older adults in their communities – and if they find they are not – require the states to report back on how they will meet the needs of LGBT older adults in their communities.

Many thanks to Ben de Guzman, Diverse Elders Coalition; Maria Glover-Wallace, Affinity Community Services; Vega Subramaniam, Vega Mala Consulting for sharing their stories and viewpoints. This esteemed panel discussed both the challenges facing LGBT older adults and their counterparts and what we all can do – from Congress and the Obama Administration to activists in communities across the country – to ensure that all older adults get the services and supports they need to age with dignity. 

 

September 8, 2015

Changing the Lives of One Lesbian Couple

Improving the lives of LGBT elders is what we at SAGE do every single day, but what does that actually mean?  In honor of Healthy Aging Month, we want to show how we help our elders age with dignity and respect. Go behind the scenes as we interview our staff and learn more about our hands-on work!

March 24, 2015

National LGBT Health Awareness Week: Time to Come Together

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This week marks the start of the 13th Annual LGBT Health Awareness Week! As part of the LGBT State Exchanges Project at the Center for American Progress, SAGE is pleased to be a part of “Time to Come Together: Trust. Transparency. Truth.” This is a time for our community members, advocates, service providers, government officials and others to come together to advance the health and wellness of our community.

  • It’s time to TRUST that our providers and the healthcare system are sensitive to and addressing our personal identities and health needs. As our report, Out & Visible notes, 65% of transgender adults in our study feel that there will be limited access to healthcare providers as they grow older.   
  • It’s time for TRANSPARENCY in our healthcare systems to be more open and honest about services and costs to help ensure greater access to healthcare. We must advocate for authentic and complete data collection of sexual orientation and gender identity to reflect reality.
  • It’s time to tell the TRUTH. We must be honest about our sexual orientation, gender identity, and health needs with our providers and the healthcare system overall. As our report, Out & Visible shows, 43% of LGBT older people who are single and 40% of LGBT older people in their 60s and 70s say their healthcare providers don’t know their sexual orientations. 

If you want to promote LGBT Health Awareness Week or get involved, please visit www.healthlgbt.org.

Yesterday also marked the 5th Anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (ACA)! What a long way we have come. SAGE is proud to celebrate the many benefits that have helped our community. Below are a few key facts on the ACA:

  1. LGBT Americans – who are disproportionately underinsured and uninsured – have benefited tremendously from the passage of the Affordable Care Act. Over the single year that encompassed the first open enrollment period under the ACA, the rate of uninsured low- and middle-income LGBT adults (those who can get financial assistance under the law to get covered) fell by 24%. In 2013, 1 in 3 (34%) LGBT adults with incomes under 400% of the federal poverty level were uninsured. By 2014, that number had dropped to 1 in 4 (26%).
  2. Less than $100/month: Of LGBT Americans who got financial help to purchase a plan through the health insurance marketplace last year, half are paying less than $100 a month in premiums. 
  3. 16.4 million: The Affordable Care Act was the fastest expansion of health insurance since 1965. Since the law went into effect, 16.4 million people who did not previously have health insurance are now covered.
  4. 129 million: Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, 129 million people no longer have to worry about an insurer denying coverage or charging higher premiums based on pre-existing conditions, or a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. For people who have been denied coverage when insurers have deemed being transgender a "pre-existing condition" this is a significant step toward improving health care access. For more information, see this brief from the Center for American Progress, The Affordable Care Act: Progress Toward Eliminating Insurance Discrimination Against Transgender People.
  5. 20 percent: The Affordable Care Act is now projected to be 20 percent cheaper than expected over the next 10 years, due in large part to slower growth in premium costs than expected.

 

February 20, 2015

LBT Cancer Support Group and Wellness Workshops

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LCI coordinator, Cristina Moldow, with Marjorie Fein, facilitator of the 1st wellness workshop.

Lesbians, bisexual women, and transgender people (LBT) face unique challenges after receiving a cancer diagnosis. Studies have shown that lower rates of health insurance, fear of discrimination, social isolation, and negative experiences with healthcare providers contribute to an increased risk for cancer among LBT community members. These same risk factors can then negatively impact treatment, recovery, and overall health after a cancer diagnosis. Research has also shown that social support, whether informally through friends and family or formally through group and individual therapy, can have real benefits for those living with a cancer diagnosis. Social support may reduce anxiety, stress, fatigue, depression, and the experience of pain. Support can also improve cancer patient’s follow-through with cancer treatment.

The Center’s Lesbian Cancer Initiative, SAGE, and CancerCare have teamed up to offer an 8-week cycle of free, professionally facilitated support groups and wellness workshops for LBT community members who have, or had, a cancer diagnosis. Whether it’s navigating the medical system or cancer’s effect on sexuality, self-image, and relationships, these groups offer a safe space for participants to get the support they need and share their stories.

The support group and wellness workshops are being held at the newly renovated Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgender Community Center at 208 West 13th Street. For the first time, a split format is being used. The first hour, 4:30pm-5:30pm, provides psychosocial support and participants are encouraged to attend the full cycle. The second hour, 5:30pm-6:30pm, provides wellness and educational workshops that are facilitated by a new presenter each week and participants are able to come on an as-desired basis. This format allows those who may not be able to make a weekly commitment to still benefit from our services and aids in customizing the wellness workshops to participants’ personal experience of cancer:

Wednesdays, February 4 – March 25

LBT Cancer Support Group 4:30pm-5:30pm

LBT Weekly Wellness Workshop 5:30pm-6:30pm

             February 11: Empowering Cancer Clients with Energy Medicine, with Marjorie Fein

             February 18: Legal Education and Planning, with Erica Gomez, Esq. of The Family Center

             February 25: Contemplative Practice for Cancer Care, with Charles Paccione

             March 4: TBD

             March 11: Gentle Yoga, with Siavonh Lenaburg

             March 18: I Can Breath – Writing for Healing, with Phyllis Stern

             March 25: Cooking for Fun and Healing, with Cook For Your Life

Wellness workshops’ topics and facilitators have been specially selected with the needs of LBT community members in mind. By participating in the support group and/or wellness workshops, LBT community members who are living with a cancer diagnosis will benefit from engaging with a group of people who share similar concerns and experiences. Furthermore, they will be able to engage with a variety of professionals who are culturally competent, attuned to LBT specific health concerns, and willing to engage in conversations with participants that may not happen elsewhere.

If interested in learning more about the support group and wellness workshops, please call 646.556.9294 or visit www.gaycenter.org/lci. Participation is free, but an intake is required. Weekly calendar updates are also available at www.facebook.com/lcithecenter.

 This post was written by Jhia Jackson, Lesbian Cancer Initiative Community Outreach Peer Intern.

November 26, 2014

An Ounce of Prevention: Getting Smart About Heart Health

6thingscardiovascular-1 copyAccessing healthcare is complicated for many people, but LGBT older adults face a specific set of concerns and challenges. For example, according to SAGE’s new report, Out & Visible, 40% of LGBT people in their 60’s and 70’s say their healthcare providers don’t know their sexual orientations—which can lead to poorer health outcomes.

SAGE and Pfizer are collaborating to help improve the health of LGBT older people with a series of “Lunch and Learn” events at the SAGE Center. A recent event focused on Cardiovascular Disease—the number one cause of death in our country. After the event, we chatted with presenter Robbins Gottlock, a family medicine physician who treats both adults and children. Read the interview, and check out our online fact sheet, to learn more!

Thanks for taking the time to talk and to share your wisdom with SAGE, Robbins! What are some of the misconceptions about cardiovascular disease?
Because cardiovascular disease can be a silent killer, many people don’t take it as seriously as they should. And when they finally do take it seriously, they fear it’s too late. I’m here to say it’s never too late. Anyone can make immediate meaningful reductions to their risk of cardiovascular disease. Seize the moment and stop smoking, start exercising, and lose weight. Treat your blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol. Check with your doctor about other positive changes you can make.

At what age do we begin to see more instances of cardiovascular disease?
Cardiovascular disease starts even in adolescence with trace cholesterol buildup in the arteries. The amount of damage increases over time and is proportional to a person’s risk factors including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, smoking, alcohol and drug use, and depression. Some people with multiple risk factors start showing signs and symptoms of cardiovascular disease at a very early age such as their forties. The average person might have problematic cardiovascular disease in their sixties. Ultimately, cardiovascular disease is the top killer of people in our country.

How are LGBT people impacted by, or more vulnerable to, these diseases in particular?
Unfortunately, as LGBT people, we have higher rates of smoking, alcohol and substance use, obesity, and depression. These lifestyle factors predispose us to cardiovascular disease. Moreover, as a group that has suffered from ongoing discrimination, we haven’t traditionally had as much access to healthcare.

Let’s say you have a patient who’s finding it hard to take the steps needed to help prevent these diseases—what are some simple, more manageable preventative measures you might recommend?
Weight loss is very important but not always very easy. However, even losing 5-10% of a person’s body weight can significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Therefore, I’d encourage people to take simple steps now to lose weight—go for a daily walk around the block or cut out one unhealthy snack a day. Beyond losing weight, make sure you are up to date with routine screenings for high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and cholesterol.

Are there any exciting new treatments or findings about these diseases that we should be aware of?
Last year new guidelines were released that help patients and their doctors quantify a person’s risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. The guidelines suggest when and how to treat people to reduce their risk. Speak with your doctor about how these guidelines can apply to you.

Thank you Robbins! This has been so educational.

 

--Posted by Kira Garcia

November 6, 2014

People at Out & Equal are talking about Out & Visible!

People are talking about Out & Visible! Our new study of the fears, beliefs, behaviors and aspirations of LGBT older adults offers important--and startling--statistics that have long been missing from our conversations about LGBT aging. At the Out & Equal conference in San Francisco yesterday, a panel of representatives from major financial and consumer companies weighed in on how the report can help them better serve our communities. We're excited to share the findings of this study with new audiences across the country, and to hear their responses.

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For example, Out & Visible found that LGBT older people are far more concerned than non-LGBT older people about their financial security and retirement. 42% of LGBT older people are very or extremely concerned that they'll outlive their retirement savings, as compared to 25% of non-LGBT people.  A panelist from Prudential, Josh Stoffregen, remarked that "Being able to better understand the unique needs and challenges the older LGBT population is facing helps us as we continue to learn more about all aspects of our community.  We're pleased that SAGE is shedding light on this important topic."

Despite our years of recent progress, LGBT people still struggle with disproportionate barriers to health and happiness. Out & Visible provides many insights which reveal the extent of these issues and the work that's still necessary to create longer, healthier lives for LGBT older adults.

--Posted by Kira Garcia

October 23, 2014

An Ounce of Prevention: Why Adult Vaccinations Are Important

AdultVaccinations_flyer-1Accessing healthcare is complicated for many people, but LGBT older adults face a specific set of concerns and challenges. For example, according to SAGE’s new report, Out & Visible, 40% of LGBT people in their 60’s and 70’s say their healthcare providers don’t know their sexual orientations—which can lead to poorer health outcomes.

SAGE and Pfizer are collaborating to help improve the health of LGBT older people with a series of “Lunch and Learn” events at the SAGE Center. Our debut event focused on Adult Vaccinations—a critical component to staying healthy. After the event, we chatted with presenter Chris Nguyen, Pharm.D., a pharmacist with Duane Reade specializing in assisting HIV and Hepatitis C patients. Read the interview, and check out our online fact sheet, to learn more!

Thanks for taking the time to talk, Chris! Your presentation prompted a lot of great questions, which was so encouraging. Can we start by talking about why adult vaccinations aren’t as commonly understood as those given to children, and what we can do to change that?

Well, I think we don’t talk about it much in the media because it’s not sensational—Ebola is more sensational! If you are a doctor you’re mostly talking about vaccines to people in the risk groups. It should have more coverage than it does.

Some people don’t believe in vaccinations—there are misconceptions. Your personal belief can be rooted in fact or misconception, so actually convincing the patient is a factor as well.

Big pharmacies help get the word out and they get the communities involved, but even so we need more education along with the promotion -- besides the flu shot because that happens every year. Pharmacists can educate individual patients on the vaccines appropriate for them.

You outlined four key reasons why adult vaccinations are critical, in your presentation. Can you share them?

Well, first, vaccines help prevent morbidity associated with the disease. In some cases these diseases can actually be fatal.

Second, to prevent outbreaks. We don’t have measles and mumps epidemics anymore because we have vaccines. Meningitis is a great example of this, especially among men who have sex with men.

 

Third, it costs much less to prevent a disease than to treat it.

Fourth, to protect the people around you and not just you. If you don’t believe in vaccines, think about the people you love.

Most people are aware of the flu shot, but what are some lesser-known important vaccines?

The meningitis vaccine is an important one recommended to certain populations, particularly men who have sex with men. But one of the most important that’s recommended across the board is the pneumonia vaccine. A new recommendation was released last month which says that people 65+, irregardless of your immune function status or chronic health conditions, should get both available types of vaccine for this disease—Prevnar and Pneumovax.

People who are under 65 and not immunocompromised but have chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, asthma, or are smokers, should get just one type of the vaccine for pneumonia—the pneumovax.

What are some special considerations for LGBT older people in terms of getting vaccinated?

As you get older, your immune system will wane. As an LGBT person, you may be at higher risk for some things. For sexually active MSM, the Hepatitis A & B vaccines would be good, as well as the vaccine for meningitis.

LGBT older people have to deal with certain social issues, too, which may reduce adequate access to care, which makes them more vulnerable.