Ending LGBT Health Inequities

Philanthropy can pursue several effective approaches to improve LGBT health.

By Samantha Franklin & Andrew Lane

Despite recent advances in civil rights protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, these communities still face significant health disparities. Continued marginalization and bias put LGBT individuals at increased risk for negative health outcomes related to mental health disorders, substance abuse, homelessness, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, and suicide.1 LGBT youths are particularly at risk for homelessness, and elders are particularly at risk for isolation. LGBT individuals are also more likely to lack health insurance, delay medical care, visit emergency rooms for treatment, and encounter prejudice from health-care providers.2

This special supplement examines the organizations and programs that are addressing social inequalities in housing, transportation, work, and other parts of society that create disparate health outcomes.

These disparities are challenging. But they can be overcome. Our experiences at the Johnson Family Foundation (JFF) indicate that philanthropy can—and should—play a leading role in improving the health of LGBT people.

Founded in 1990, JFF promotes the development of healthy, vibrant, and just communities by improving the health of the environment, promoting equality and social progress, and supporting education and youth. Growing out of our interest in improving the everyday experiences of LGBT people who may be most at risk, we began funding LGBT mental health in 2006 through a donor-advised fund at the North Star Fund. Since then, JFF has contributed more than $2 million to these issues. Today, between 20 and 25 percent of our grantmaking is focused on LGBT issues, with about a third of that dedicated to mental health. Overall, we take a holistic approach to promoting LGBT health equity by supporting efforts in three areas: health-related services (and access to those services); research on anti-LGBT discrimination and its repercussions for LGBT health; and advocacy and grassroots organizing for social and political change.



1 Institute of Medicine, The Health of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People: Building a Foundation for Better Understanding, Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press, 2011.
2 Laura E. Durso, Kellan Baker, and Andrew Cray, LGBT Communities and the Affordable Care Act: Findings from a National Survey, Washington, D.C.: Center for American Progress, 2014. Jeff Krehely, How to Close the LGBT