SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF. – Today, the Santa Clara County Public Health Department and Board of Supervisor President Ken Yeager released the “Status of LGBTQ Health: Santa Clara County 2013,” the first comprehensive health report that uncovers health disparities and inequities, and identifies key priority health issues for the diverse Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer communities of Santa Clara County.
LGBTQ adults represent an estimated 4% of the adult population in Santa Clara County, or more than 50,000 people. Despite the size of the population and its unique needs, information on the health status and related social experiences of LGBTQ residents in Santa Clara County is scarce, making it difficult for leaders to shape policy or allocate funding to improve LGBTQ health and well-being.
“The Bay Area has a well-deserved reputation for tolerance and diversity. However, the LGBTQ community here still has very real and unique needs,” said Yeager, who is Santa Clara County’s first and longest-serving openly gay elected official and served as co-chair for the assessment. “The LGBTQ health assessment provides valuable information that will help guide policies to address critical needs of the community.”
The report covers the following areas: general health and healthcare access, sexually transmitted infections and sexual health, social and self-acceptance, mental health and substance use, safety and violence, and social service needs. It also includes findings on community resources and recommendations for addressing health concerns.
The status report found that there is a strong need for social services, particularly affordable housing. More than one-quarter of LGBTQ survey respondents and/or their families need affordable housing but have a hard time accessing it. LGBTQ individuals comprise nearly one-third of homeless youth and young adults under the age of 25 and 10% of homeless adults ages 25 and older. LGBTQ community members provided recommendations for addressing these issues including building community partnerships with homeless shelters, dedicating a portion of senior housing and ensuring proper training for program staff who provide social and safety net services
The assessment also revealed that more than one-third of LGBTQ respondents have at some point been diagnosed with a chronic physical health issue and that 1 in 4 is obese. Mental health and substance use were noted as major concerns, along with social acceptance, anti-LGBTQ violence, and intimate partner violence, which was described as a hidden issue in the LGBTQ community.
“Each group within the LGBTQ community has distinct health-related needs and experiences that are affected by characteristics such as age, race/ethnicity, income and gender identity,” said Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara County Health Officer. “The health report identifies overall LGBTQ health status, while providing information on disparities for specific groups within the community.”
Also uncovered was a lack of awareness of available services, a shortage of LGBTQ-competent services, as well as multiple barriers to treatment, including cost and a shortage of mental health and substance use providers that are LGBTQ-friendly and knowledgeable.
Sexually transmitted infections (STI) and sexual health remain a big concern, with a need for more awareness and increased STI testing. Since 1983, 73% of reported HIV cases in Santa Clara County were contracted through male-to-male sexual contact, including those who were both men who have sex with men (MSM) and injection drug users (MSM & IDU). Approximately 1 in 5 MSM LGBTQ survey respondents report that they have never been tested.
The health report also addresses social acceptance and discrimination, with two-thirds (62%) of LGBTQ survey respondents indicating that most people in Santa Clara County are accepting of LGBTQ individuals. There has been some integration of the LGBTQ community into community events, such as LGBTQ nights at sports games. There has been progress in passing anti-LGBTQ discrimination laws, including employment laws and a law that mandates access to restrooms for transgender students in schools.
However, anti-LGBTQ violence and harassment remains a concern. One in 10 LGBTQ respondents reported being physically attacked or injured and one-third had been verbally harassed in the past 12 months due to sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
The report includes a series of recommendations from LGBTQ community members on improving social acceptance, including: supporting national and developing local educational campaigns; educating human resource managers about LGBTQ rights and discrimination; and increasing acceptance at schools by carrying out sensitivity trainings.
Media Contact: Amy Cornell, Public Health Department 408-792-5155;
Posted: January 10, 2014