2014 Public Health Year-in-Review: Part 3

The Top Ten Biggest Public Health Issues of 2014 continues this week with a look at more moments in health that made this year memorable. The reframing of public health in the past year begins with the “T” in LGBT:

5. Transforming Health for Transgendered Populations

Those who are transgendered have long faced the burden of receiving inadequate or insensitive medical care. Often times, healthcare workers are ill equipped or not trained at all on the complexities of transgender care. In fact, some providers won’t deliver care at all for a patient who’s transgendered. According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 19% of 6,450 transgendered and gender non-conforming patients reported that they were refused medical care due to their identity/gender status. Though reeducating our health professionals in adequately addressing this population is crucial, this is not the reason transgendered health was significant in 2014.

…19% of 6,450 transgendered and gender non-conforming patients reported that they were refused medical care due to their identity/gender status.

This year, transgendered populations are no longer afflicted by a part of the discrimination that has burdened them for so long. Because The Affordable Care Act prohibits discrimination of any kind (gender identity included), transgendered patients can now receive gender reassignment surgery and transition related care (e.g. hormone therapy) through their health insurance coverage. A patient diagnosed with gender dysphoria or gender identity disorder will not be turned away by their insurance for their “pre-existing condition”. Now, a physician can recommend the gender reassignment surgery for their patient, and health insurance coverage is available in covering the cost. Not only can transgendered people purchase private coverage, public coverage is finally now made available. Also this year, Medicare has broken its ban on not providing health insurance coverage for sex reassignment surgery. This private and public care accessibility is especially significant for this population because they have been blighted with rates of HIV infection, drug use, alcohol use and suicide attempts that are much higher than that of the general public. An increase in accessibility and decrease in discrimination makes for one extremely promising solution to address the problems that have shrouded this population.

6. Curtailing the Carbon Footprint

This year the Environmental Protection Agency proposed a groundbreaking plan that forces power plants to clean up their act. The federal agency developed the Clean Power Plan under the Clean Air Act to reduce ozone pollution stemming from greenhouse gas emissions. The plan, which should be finalized in April 2015, proposes to regulate carbon emissions for the first time ever in the United States. By the year 2030, carbon pollution would be reduced by 30 % and smog and soot would be reduced by 25%. The requirements set out by the plan would considerably influence the operations of current power plants in an effort to reduce their carbon footprint and push for the production of clean power. A less carbon-intensive environment not only benefits our atmosphere and climate, it also means less asthma, less heart disease, and less stroke. The intention of the Clean Power Plan is for our federal government to implement a change towards environmental responsibility and sustainability that will positively affect the health of our nation. 2014 was a bold year for the EPA and 2015 should not be one to disappoint either. The two issues examined this week are a testament to the metamorphosis of public health on all levels. Revolutionary changes in transgendered health and environmental protection are just two more reasons why 2014 was a memorable year for the health and welfare of Americans. Be sure to follow this series for next 2 weeks to find out what final four public health matters rocked 2014.