In 15 Minutes, You Could Help Transform Women's Health Care in Chicago

Howard Brown women's health survey

Want to improve women’s health care in Chicago? Fantastic. Once you’re done reading this, take 15 minutes to fill out a new online survey by Howard Brown Health. Done.

The Women’s Needs Assessment Survey is part of an effort by the decades-old LGBT health organization to better serve trans and cis women (and “anyone with a cervix”), as well as shed the lingering perception that it’s only for gay men’s health or HIV-related services.

Those are both part of the organization’s identity, but Howard Brown is also so much more, said Amy Nicole Miller, manager of Women’s Health Services.

“There are a lot of health disparities for lesbian, bisexual and queer women, and so to do a better job to serve our mission, Howard Brown has decided we really need to make a concerted effort this year to expand and improve our services for women,” Miller said. “At the same time, there are a lot of attacks on women’s health care, as we know, so I think the timing of this community needs assessment is really important and speaks a lot to how dedicated we are.

“And we’re being mindful of what’s happening in the world and in the country and in Chicago with threats to access to things like health insurance and Medicaid,” she said. “Even just LGBT-affirming providers and affirming health care for our population is really important right now.”

The #ChicagoHealthLooksLike survey is open to all trans and cis women, plus anyone with a cervix, regardless of sexual orientation. The goal is to gather input from as many people as possible to inform programming decisions and help determine the path forward for women’s health. It’s also a nod to the fact that not everyone who chooses Howard Brown as their health care provider identifies as part of the LGBT community.

The survey includes a range of demographic information – age, neighborhood, gender identity – as well as deeper questions about the quality of experiences with health care providers in the past.

Howard Brown has been growing quickly in recent years, with nine locations across the city of Chicago, and Miller said the survey is an important part of ensuring the growth matches what the community is asking for.

“I want our expansion to be guided by what women want and need, and not what we think they want and need,” she said.

If all of that isn’t enough to persuade you to take the survey, Mary Morten, president of national consulting firm Morten Group, has some sobering insights.

“Through Morten Group, we’ve worked on a number of large-scale research projects, and it is very often the case that one, women are not well represented, and two, certainly not women of color,” Morten said. “So it is important that all of these underrepresented voices actually are included, are heard, and that programming and services are developed with a broad range of people in mind, and that can only happen if we participate in filling out the survey.”

And, she said, it’s not just about you.

“It is not just about what it will mean for an individual, it is about what it will also mean for anyone who walks in and uses the services who identifies as a woman, or a gender non-binary person. It’s really important that all of those perspectives … are represented.”

Morten Group’s partnership with Howard Brown Health on this assessment builds on a history of assessment-based work, including the LGBT Community Needs Assessment, conducted with the Chicago Community Trust, and an assessment of the National LGBTQ Task Force’s annual conference Creating Change. 

In addition to the survey, Howard Brown Health is also conducting community dialogues about women’s health on the South Side. The next Women’s Health Community Dialogue is 1-3 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 27 at Howard Brown Health 63rd Street, 641 63rd Street.

Take the #ChicagoHealthLooksLike survey here and don’t forget to pass along the link. The survey closes at the end of January 2018.

(Photo courtesy of Howard Brown Health)

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Karen Hawkins is the Founder and Rebelle in Chief of Rebellious Magazine. She is a recovering mainstream media reporter and editor who wants to thank her former boss for naming the online magazine she's always wanted to start when he called her “Rebellious” for taking too many weekends off. When she isn't instigating a media Rebellion, she's thanking her lucky starlets she gets to do whatever she wants on weekends.