The largest celebrations of Pride Month are being held this weekend in New York City with The MArch through midtown Manhattan to the Village, the 31st Annual NYC Dyke March and the Queer Liberation March happening this last weekend of June. The American Heart Association is proud to celebrate it’s allies and staff advocating for better heart health for the LGBTQ+ communities. We last marched in the parade through midtown prior to the COVID pandemic in 2019 with the group I previously worked with called Immigration Equality.
Fast forward 4 years! We’ve survived a pandemic and learned so much about how the Pandemic Years impacted people who were already marginalized, such as racial minorities, immigrants and those who identify as LGBTQI+. Discrimination itself is a trauma to your health. Being denied treatment because of your sexual identity stands against the values of the American Heart Association. Additionally, experiencing stress caused by discrimination or violence may make you more likely to have heart problems later in life. We need to continue funding to better understand how discrimination impacts health and ways to abolish it.
In New York City we know that often the focus on the queer community fades after June ends. The corporations are out and so goes the money and attention.
In order to change this approach, we want to build mechanisms to address health disparities and remove barriers to health. We hope to find and build sustainable programs that we can invest in and support year-round through guidance and practice, by bringing together a community of leaders and institutions whose network will allow us to positively effect the health of entire neighborhoods and communities.
By addressing discrimination in policy, housing, healthcare, education, at home and in the workplace we can improve the health of all people.
A conversation on health in the community begins with discussion of common experiences with discrimination. The majority of LGBTQ adults report having experienced some form of workplace discrimination or harassment. Living under these stressful conditions make people more vulnerable to things like smoking, of which LGBTQI+ adults are two and a half times more likely heterosexual adults to smoke tobacco. Due to discrimination by a health provider, 1 in 5 people in the community have postponed or avoided medical. With the lessons we learned about the need to improve the health of marginalized communities, the American Heart Association’s post-pandemic lessons include remaining committed to addressing hypertension and high blood pressure which is critical to overall health. Almost half of adults are living with high blood pressure and the LGBTQI+ community might have a higher risk.
But the most important thing we want to do is find opportunities to be intentional in including and prioritizing this community’s health needs.in New York City. For decades this city has been a hub and home for gay and queer culture and art. There presently exists numerous groups dedicated to health in this community. We must be proactive in building and nurturing relationships with those established community health organizations serving the city’s queer community.
Upon a close inspection, the myriad of services that exist for the LGBTQI+ community is vast and multigenerational. For example, groups meeting broader needs like the Pride Centers of Manhattan or Staten Island; or more specific issues like the organizations helping seniors in the community find appropriate care to avoid additional discrimination later in life. It’s become clear that there’s a large ecosystem in place and the American Heart Association in New York City with its resources and network can add value to the ongoing conversations on health.
Additionally, we must have dedicated staff and volunteers who serve as stewards of the mission and bring it to the community. In New York City the American Heart Association has formed a new working group to consider strategies and tactics to better reach the LGBTQI+ community in our area. Among the leaders of the group are Kevin Stec, Senior Development Director, and Jensen Baker, Development Director, for the Go Red campaign. They joined me for a short conversation to share their plans for the last weekend of Pride Month in NYC and to discuss why forming a group dedicated to addressing the needs of their community is so important.
Jensen and Kevin interview: