Mazzoni Center partners with White House, HHS, on LGBT Health Conference


Last month Mazzoni Center was proud to partner with The White House Office of Public Engagement (OPE) and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) in presenting The White House LGBT Conference on Health, which took place Thursday, February 16, 2012 at Thomas Jefferson University.  

The daylong symposium featured remarks by Secretary of Health & Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, Director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management John Berry, and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, among others. It was the inaugural event in a series of conferences around the country specifically focused on LGBT Americans.  

Mazzoni Center Executive Director Nurit L. Shein said, “It is a privilege for us to be partnering with The White House and the Department of Health and Human Services on an event whose focus is facilitating a broad conversation about the health needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals.”  She added: “We are delighted that they have chosen Philadelphia as the site for this historic event.” 

More than 300 health care professionals, community organizers, medical students, and community members from at least 22 states traveled to Philadelphia to attend the conference, which was called “a watershed moment for LGBT Health” in the Huffington Post.

Panelists included key officials from the national and regional HHS offices, as well as leadership and staff from area LGBT organizations and health entities.

John Berry, who is Director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, and the highest-ranking openly gay person in the federal government, kicked off the conference by reflecting on the tremendous progress made on LGBT issues during his lifetime.  Following Director Berry’s remarks, Mazzoni Center Executive Director Nurit Shein moderated a panel of HHS officials: Assistant Secretary for Aging Kathy Greenlee, Assistant Secretary for Health Howard Koh, and Deputy General Counsel Ken Choe, each of whom described their work on LGBT health issues.  These senior leaders then took questions from the audience on a diverse range of topics from mental health to the Affordable Care Act.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius concluded the morning session with keynote remarks that underscored the specific policy initiatives her department has undertaken in recent years to address the health needs of LGBT Americans: among them affirming the hospital visitation rights of same sex partners, and expanding HHS’s Equal Employment Opportunity Policy to include protection for employees and applicants from unfair treatment due to gender identity. 

Secretary Sebelius outlined several ways in which the newly enacted Affordable Care Act is benefiting LGBT individuals and families - from expanding access to preventative health screenings, to removing the option for private health insurers to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions. She also talked about the plan released last year by HHS to integrate sexual orientation- and gender identity-specific questions into their national surveys, which will allow the federal government for the first time to gather important health data on LGBT Americans. 

The afternoon sessions were focused on specific LGBT health issues, including access to care, mental health and substance abuse, transgender health, HIV/AIDS prevention, cultural competency, and LGBT youth and aging; each was led by a panel that paired federal and regional government officials with community advocates from the Philadelphia area.  Participants had the opportunity to learn about federal resources, and also to provide their feedback and recommendations to administration officials.

To read the official White House blog post on the Feb. 16 LGBT Conference on Health, click here.

To view video of the morning session click here.  (*click on the “Link to Full Text” button in each section to view video)