Monday, July 6, 2020

Celebrating Pride, Protecting Your Health

Celebrating Pride and Protecting Your Health

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By Veronica Noel, June 19, 2020

As Bronx residents join New York and the rest of the world in celebrating Pride Month, it’s important to remember this is a time not only for celebration, but also reflection and advocacy for the LGBTQ+ community. 

As a Bronx native, I understand how difficult it has been over the past few months for many of my friends, neighbors and the LGBTQ+ community, especially when it comes to accessing and receiving quality health care. As regional manager for EmblemHealth’s Neighborhood Care center in Harlem, my work focuses entirely on serving our community. 

At EmblemHealth, we strive to ensure all of our members feel included, understood and respected. We see our members as individuals, with personal stories and unique needs. Unfortunately, people who identify as LGBTQ+ often tend to face more barriers to accessing health care than other groups.  

In fact, the LGBTQ+ community often experiences worse health outcomes than other groups for a number of reasons. Many suffer from ongoing stress and anxiety from living in a society where LGBTQ+ individuals are often stigmatized. Those who do have access to medical care often struggle to find providers to meet their needs. The federal government’s reversal of anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people earlier this month will only increase these challenges. At EmblemHealth, we believe in quality health care for all, and are committed to protecting the rights of the LGBTQ+ community with the care and resources you deserve.

If you are not comfortable with your doctor, you are more likely to leave out information pertinent to your health, which will directly affect the level of care you receive. If you identify as LGBTQ+ and do not feel comfortable with your current health care provider, find a doctor that you feel more at ease. EmblemHealth’s provider group, AdvantageCare Physicians (ACPNY), takes a “whole you” approach to care that responds to and respects all the factors that make up your identity and contribute to your whole health picture, including your gender, race, ethnicity, and  sexual orientation. Many of our providers have undergone special training on providing responsive and respectful care to LGBTQ+ patients. ACPNY’s affiliate, BronxDocs, has three convenient locations in the Bronx and offers virtual visits. 

While physical health is important, our mental health should also be a top priority, as LGBTQ+ people are more likely to experience mental health conditions and are at a higher risk for suicidal thoughts. Help is available through local and national resources, including the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) and the Trevor Project, which is dedicated to supporting LGBTQ+ youth. 

Let’s also remember that health care goes beyond the doctor’s office. Make sure to consistently check in on how you are feeling, since a lot has happened over the last few months. If you are experiencing feelings of uncertainty and helplessness, those can actually be forms of grief. Try to limit your news consumption and find ways to help your mind and body. Some ways to feel good in these difficult times can include deep breathing, meditation, or just simply stretching your body and walking around the block. EmblemHealth Neighborhood Care offers free health  and wellness programs to help, including virtually during COVID-19.

While these are uncertain and stressful times, it’s important to remember that Pride Month is also about celebrating what we’ve accomplished as a community. Celebrate safely by taking advantage of one of the dozens of virtual events taking place around New York City. The Bronx is hosting virtual celebrations that include a ceremony at the Bronx Borough Hall along with dance parties, readings, and more—all which you can enjoy from the comfort of your home. Social media channels and apps like MeetUp and Facebook are also great ways to find virtual events to join and meet new people while joining in the celebrations. For something more intimate with family and friends, why not schedule your own Pride party through Skype, Zoom, or FaceTime?

It’s important to remember we are not alone, even if we are still social distancing. We’ve made progress as a community, but there is still much work to be done. EmblemHealth is proud to support the LGBTQ+ community, and committed to making sure our members have access to the care they deserve to lead a healthy, happy life—one in which they can truly be proud.

Veronica Noel is a Regional Manager at EmblemHealth.

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