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Addressing Health Care Gaps for the LGBTQ Community

LGBTQ birthday candles

Ning Hsieh, a Michigan State University sociologist, is knocking down barriers that prevent LGBTQ+ Americans from accessing quality health care. By exposing disparities and creating solutions, she plays an instrumental role in creating a better healthcare system for sexual and gender minorities.

Since coming to MSU in 2016, Hsieh has led research endeavors surrounding LGBTQ+ physical and mental health. Her work focused on issues such as healthcare disadvantages, intersectionality and aging among the LGBTQ+ community, with a particular emphasis on the role of positive social networks and relationships.

Ning Hsieh headshot

Ning Hsieh, Michigan State University sociologist. Photo by G.L. Kohuth

“Due to stigma, many LGBTQ+ adults have less social capital that is vital for maintaining and enhancing health,” Hsieh said. “This means that their number and quality of social networks is significantly less than their cisgender, heterosexual counterparts. The U.S. healthcare system is notoriously difficult to navigate, and being a queer person makes it even more challenging – culturally, financially and administratively.”

This disparity stems from complicated relationships with family and social disapproval of same-sex relationships, as well as stigmatization and isolation from peer groups.

Currently, Hsieh is working on a study with fellow MSU sociologist stef shuster on how the COVID-19 crisis is affecting sexual and gender minorities of color in the Greater Lansing area. This study is part of a larger project studying barriers for LGBTQ+ people of color within the healthcare system.

Hsieh’s passion for this research comes from her own experiences as a member of the LGBTQ+ community.

“Having problems accessing culturally sensitive care and financing basic healthcare is a major reason why sexual and gender minorities experience poorer health outcomes than their straight or cisgender peers,” Hsieh said. “A lot of this is due to interpersonal and institutional discrimination against people of different sexual orientations and gender identities in our society, including but not limited to the healthcare system. I hope that my research will enhance healthcare practices that address the needs of SGM people.”

Hsieh serves on the Sexual and Gender Minority Health Consortium, a research center that unites faculty from the College of Social Science with colleagues from across the university and Midwest, to study how to improve health and wellbeing for the LGBTQ+ community. She plays an instrumental role in planning the consortium’s focus by guiding research topics and content, as well as serving on the search committee for hiring additional researchers in the Sociology department to join the consortium.

Elizabeth Schondelmayer, Caroline Brooks, Ning Hsieh via MSU Today

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