JOURNAL ARTICLE

Teaching lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender health in a South African health sciences faculty: addressing the gap

Alexandra Müller
BMC Medical Education 2013, 13: 174
24373219

BACKGROUND: People who identity as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) have specific health needs. Sexual orientation and gender identity are social determinants of health, as homophobia and heteronormativity persist as prejudices in society. LGBT patients often experience discrimination and prejudice in health care settings. While recent South African policies recognise the need for providing LGBT specific health care, no curricula for teaching about LGBT health related issues exist in South African health sciences faculties. This study aimed to determine the extent to which LGBT health related content is taught in the University of Cape Town's medical curriculum.

METHODS: A curriculum mapping exercise was conducted through an online survey of all academic staff at the UCT health sciences faculty, determining LGBT health related content, pedagogical methodology and assessment.

RESULTS: 127 academics, across 31 divisions and research units in the Faculty of Health Sciences, responded to the survey, of which 93 completed the questionnaire. Ten taught some content related to LGBT health in the MBChB curriculum. No LGBT health related content was taught in the allied health sciences curricula. The MBChB curriculum provided no opportunity for students to challenge their own attitudes towards LGBT patients, and key LGBT health topics such as safer sex, mental health, substance abuse and adolescent health were not addressed.

CONCLUSION: At present, UCTs health sciences curricula do not adequately address LGBT specific health issues. Where LGBT health related content is taught in the MBChB curriculum, it is largely discretionary, unsystematic and not incorporated into the overarching structure. Coordinated initiatives to integrate LGBT health related content into all health sciences curricula should be supported, and follow an approach that challenges students to develop professional attitudes and behaviour concerning care for patients from LGBT backgrounds, as well as providing them with specific LGBT health knowledge. Educating health professions students on the health needs of LGBT people is essential to improving this population's health by providing competent and non-judgmental care.

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