If there is a single thread which ties together the incredible work done by each member of the Health and Human Services family, it is the belief that every American deserves the same opportunity to live a healthy, happy life.
Protecting the rights â€“ and supporting the health â€“ of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community is a central part of making that opportunity possible, which is why our department has made LGBT health and wellbeing a priority. It is also why today, Secretary Burwell is announcing a new Department-wide leader in this effort. As Senior Advisor for LGBT Health, Elliot Kennedy will work with leaders at HHS and across the public and private sectors to ensure that this essential work remains front and center. An experienced leader, Elliot previously served as staff for the LGBT Committee and as Special Expert for LGBT Affairs at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
Elliot is stepping into this position at an exciting time, as we continue to fight for equal rights and protections that LGBT Americans deserve. As we write this, marriage equality is the law of the land, states are increasingly moving to ban the harmful practice of conversion therapy for minors, and transgender people have even greater access to health care coverage than before. And just a few weeks ago, we took an important step forward towards making discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sex stereotyping in health care a thing of the past with the publishing of the Final Rule implementing Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act.
Here at HHS, our support for LGBT health and wellbeing has spanned across the department. In just the past year alone:
- SAMHSA released the first in-depth federal report on conversion therapy, â€œEnding Conversion Therapy â€“ Supporting and Affirming LGBTQ Youth;â€
- The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health added two new objectives focused on advancing data collection about the needs and concerns of the LGBT community to Healthy People 2020;
- The Food and Drug Administration released â€œThis Free Life,â€ a campaign designed to encourage LGBT young adults to live tobacco-free;
- The National Institutes of Health created the first Sexual and Gender Minority Research Office; and,
- The Indian Health Service hosted its first ever listening sessions on LGBT health issues.
We are proud of this progress, and grateful to our colleagues and partners in service who have worked collaboratively to make this progress possible.Â But as Secretary Burwell likes to remind us: the best way to celebrate our progress is to keep making it.
So today, as we grow our leadership team and celebrate our efforts, we will do just that.Â We will remain focused on how, in the coming months, we can continue to make LGBT health an essential part of our work, and make our country a better, healthier place for all Americans.