Transgender individuals are, at present, one of the underserved population groups. Although there is a tendency to decrease discrimination of transgender people in society, they still face many challenges in different spheres of life, including education, employment, and healthcare. Although gender incongruity and gender-nonconforming behavior are not considered pathologic processes, gender dysphoria is included in the list of mental disorders and needs therapy (Gupta, Imborek, & Krasowski, 2016). Apart from this specific disorder, transgender individuals have other health problems common for the whole population and frequently face challenges in healthcare settings related to inadequate healthcare.
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Health Disparities of Transgender Patients
Transgender patients often observe health disparities in many spheres. Stigma (perceived or real) and intolerance in health care in general and biomedicine in particular lead to problems with access to healthcare (Safer et al., 2016). For example, transgender women are considered to be “a population group that carries a disproportionate burden of HIV infection” with 20% of HIV prevalence (Safer et al., 2016, p. 170). Other findings of a research conducted on a sample of 1093 transgender individuals in the United States included high rates of clinical depression (44.1%) and anxiety (33.2%) (Safer et al., 2016).
Moreover, smoking, present or earlier drug or alcohol abuse, and suicidal behavior are significantly more frequent among transgender individuals than among other population groups. Also, transgender patients frequently need specific medical procedures, such as hormone therapy or surgery (Safer et al., 2016). In addition, there are other disparities not directly related to health, but influencing healthcare access of this group of people. They include financial disparities (poor income or a lack of insurance), discrimination, lack of competence of healthcare professionals, etc.
Barriers to High Quality Healthcare for Transgender Patients
Representatives of the transgender community frequently face barriers in their attempts to access high-quality healthcare. One of the biggest barriers is poor access to care. It is revealed in the lack of “safe hormonal therapy and appropriate general medical care for transgender patients,” which are crucial for transgender patients (Safer et al., 2016, p. 168). Since cross-sex hormone therapy is the major treatment for gender dysphoria, transgender patients can experience more severe symptoms in case of unavailability of healthcare (Gupta et al., 2016). Healthcare providers do not have enough expertise to manage transgender patients, and those that have suitable facilities can be too expensive. This fact leads to a financial barrier that is also common for transgender patients. Frequently, transgender individuals have employment problems that result in poor income and lack of insurance to cover the necessary medical interventions. Another group of barriers comprises socioeconomic factors such as housing, transportation, and mental health (Safer et al.). Other minorities also meet those problems, but they can become critical for transgender patients.
Despite decreasing discrimination and increasing awareness of the problems of transgender individuals, there are still many challenges they have to face due to being different than the accepted two genders. They are particularly evident in healthcare that lacks experience and facilities for appropriate care for transgender individuals. There are no specific studies focused on the needs of this population group that could facilitate the preparation of professionals able to provide the necessary care and thus eliminate the existing barriers. Thus, there is a need for further research on the existing challenges in the healthcare of transgender patients and the development of interventions to provide high-quality care.
Gupta, S., Imborek, K., & Krasowski, M. (2016). Challenges in transgender healthcare: The pathology perspective. Laboratory Medicine, 47(3), 180-188. Web.
Safer, J., Coleman, E., Feldman, J., Garofalo, R., Hembree, W., Radix, A., & Sevelius, J. (2016). Barriers to healthcare for transgender individuals. Current Opinion in Endocrinology & Diabetes and Obesity, 23(2), 168-171. Web.
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