Praxis Think Tank  has carried out a study on the attitudes of healthcare professionals and students towards lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex individuals (LGBTI). There are more healthcare workers who perceive that trans and intersex people are treated unequally in the healthcare system than those who estimate that lesbians, gays and bisexuals are also treated unequally.

42% of healthcare professionals believe that the Estonian healthcare system treats lesbian, gay and bisexual patients equally with everyone else. However, 23% feel that LGB patients are treated unequally, with the remainder either undecided, choosing not to respond, or giving mixed answers.

Notably, 35% of healthcare workers think that transgender and intersex patients face discrimination. The perception varies by profession: 40% of psychiatrists sense this unequal treatment, compared to only 15% of family doctors. Moreover, a significant 62% of healthcare students believe that transgender and intersex patients are treated unequally within the Estonian healthcare system. A total of 748 healthcare professionals and students participated in the study.

Mari-Liis Sepper, head of the equality policies programme at Think Tank Praxis, commented on the findings: “The interest in the study among medical professionals was remarkably high, and the results are positive as negative attitudes aren’t predominant. Awareness of LGBTI individuals and their needs seems to be average. However, healthcare professionals and students in Estonia tend to be more cautious and less informed about transgender and intersex individuals. Still, a vast majority (84%) of healthcare professionals believe they should be offered further training on LGBTI patients, including learning how to communicate with them. This indicates a significant openness to understanding and listening to sexual and gender minorities.”

Aili Kala, advocacy leader of the Estonian LGBT Association, added: “There’s still much work ahead in terms of improving the attitudes and awareness of medical professionals. Yet, the keen interest seen in the study towards LGBTI-centric training is encouraging. Over the past couple of years, we’ve trained hundreds of healthcare workers, many of whom have become allies committed to the health equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex individuals. This is a promising foundation to build upon.”

The study is  presented on 27th October in Tallinn at a joint conference by Praxis and the Estonian LGBT Association titled “LGBTQI+ Health Equality – How Do We Move from Values to Actions?”. The conference will focus on healthcare supporting transgender people during their transition, mental health issues of LGBTQI+ individuals, including the theory of minority stress, suggesting that the poorer health indicators of sexual and gender minorities are caused by societal inequality and stigmatization. Discussions with healthcare professionals will explore which attitudes hinder achieving health equality and who plays a role in changing these attitudes.

The study and conference are funded by the European Union’s Rights, Equality, and Citizenship Programme and the Estonian Ministry of Social Affairs.