ISGMH, Howard Brown Health, and Bisexual Queer Alliance Chicago Receive Bi+ Health Seed Grant

A team of researchers from the Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing (ISGMH) at Northwestern University, Howard Brown Health, and the Bisexual Queer Alliance Chicago received a grant to examine the barriers bisexual people face when accessing healthcare.

This 2020 NP3 practice-based research seed grant was awarded to ISGMH faculty member and associate director of ISGMH’s EDIT Program, Lauren Beach, Ph.D., J.D.; ISGMH postdoctoral scholar Casey Xavier Hall, Ph.D.; Howard Brown Health Medical Director for New Initiatives Cori Blum, M.D., AAHIVS; and Bisexual Queer Alliance Chicago President Jessie Miller.

The NP3 seed grant program supports research partnership development and collaboration between community-based primary care practices and academic researchers. These one-year, $25,000 awards are sponsored by the Northwestern University Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (NUCATS), the Center for Community Health, and the Division of General Internal Medicine and Geriatrics.

The researchers were awarded the grant for their project titled, “We’re here! Identifying Bi+ Individuals’ Primary Care Needs through Collaborative Community Engaged Research.”

“Bisexual+ people are less likely to have a primary care provider than their gay, lesbian, or heterosexual peers and are less likely to be out to their healthcare providers. While interventions exist to engage LGBT people in general in primary care services, to the best of our knowledge, none of these interventions have been specifically tailored to the needs of bi+ people,” said Beach, one of the project’s principal investigators.

This project’s first phase is to learn more about the barriers bi+ people face when trying to access primary care and how healthcare providers can work to address these disparities.

“The way that we design and implement healthcare currently lacks consideration of what makes bi-affirming patient experiences. This project seeks bi+ community voices and real patient experiences to work toward developing strategies that not only avoid stigmatizing bisexual populations, but move toward empowering bisexual people through intentional care practices,” said Xavier Hall, who is also a principal investigator.

Miller, a co-investigator on the project, shared personal experiences of the kinds of barriers that exist for bisexual+ people seeking health services: “I cannot tell you how many times I or my friends have experienced prejudice and discrimination when trying to access healthcare. I have been on the receiving end of judgmental comments, weird looks, and negative stereotypes. I have often tried to find LGBTQ competent doctors and have gone with LGBTQ incompetent doctors because I desperately needed the care and couldn’t find anyone else.”

Once the researcher team has gathered data about bi+ people’s experiences with healthcare, they plan to use that data to design models for affirming patient services.

“The long-term goal of the work,” Beach said, “is to uplift the voices of bi+ people to create a national model for how to build partnerships with health systems to improve the primary care of bi+ populations.”

Read more about the Northwestern Primary Care Practice-Based Research Program grant winners.