g:i ag:i aNational experts to speak at health conference


Event Details

MINNEAPOLIS — Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) Minnesotans continue to experience high rates of depression and anxiety. The 2015 Voices of Health Survey from Rainbow Health Initiative (RHI) also found that little progress has been made in reducing disparities in food insecurity, homelessness and access to culturally responsive medical care.


These results, as well as the nonprofit’s focus on advancing health equity, has spurred RHI to organize Opportunity Conference 2017. The two-day forum of workshops, seminars and keynote addresses will include many experts, including internationally respected demographer and researcher Dr. Gary Gates and multicultural psychologist Dr. Beverly Greene.


“We are a small organization that does cutting-edge work,” Joann Usher, executive director of RHI, said. “The Opportunity Conference will bring together health-care providers, policy makers and researchers to raise awareness of the need for this work.”


Gates will give the opening keynote of the conference, to be held Feb. 27-28 at the University of Minnesota.  The former research director at UCLA’s Williams Institute is responsible for many of the best estimates about the size and scope of America’s LGBTQ population. When United States Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy delivered the 2015 opinion that made same-sex marriage legal throughout the country, he quoted Gates’ research. A variety of media outlets, from the New York Times, to National Public Radio and the PBS NewsHour, look to Gates for expert commentary when addressing the geography and demography of the LGBT population.


“It will be Demographics 101 for the LGBTQ population and how health, ethnicity, age and gender might impact health outcomes,” Gates said. “Quantifying the population is about documenting how LGBT people live their lives. The reality of our political system is that you don’t really count unless you are counted.”


Usher said the organization has three main goals for the conference:

  • A greater awareness of LGBTQ health disparities.
  • An improved desire to provide better care.
  • A better understanding of how marginalized communities are impacted by policy.

“This conference has the potential to truly create change in our lives and lived experiences, from both a policy and informational standpoint,” she said.


In a distinguished 35-year plus career, Greene’s work has centered largely on people who, for a variety of reasons, are marginalized in society. “The more marginalized a person is, the greater the psychological challenges the person faces,” she said.


RHI’s Voices of Health project has provided a closer look at the lives of the LGBTQ population in Minnesota. The Opportunity Conference is an extension of this work and with few LGBTQ- focused national health conferences of this scope, the gathering will provide a rare chance to expose attendees to new information and address some of the specific disparities experienced by various segments of the LGBTQ population. The conference will feature more than 35 strategic sessions in tracks on research data, clinical health, behavioral/mental health and policy making.


Gates emphasized that although retired, he is still very interested in talking publicly about these issues. “I want to help people better interpret research and to think through these issues,” he said. “Researchers, health-care providers and policy-makers need to think carefully about how we measure and think about these groups and how we are going to respond to the disparities that do exist.”


Rainbow Health Initiative is a Minneapolis-based nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing health equity for the LGBTQ communities through research, education, and advocacy.  For more information on the conference, including a tentative schedule and to register, visit opportunityconference.org.


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