Helping all adolescents feel welcome and safe in a primary health care setting is certainly something we strive for, but when a teen is transgender/gender non-conforming (TGNC), they may not feel that their medical home is prepared to deal with their health concerns, resulting in fewer visits than teens who may be cisgender. To help understand if differences do exist and what we can do about them, Rider et al. (10.1542/peds.2017-1683) looked at data from the 2016 Minnesota Student Survey involving almost 81,000 9th and 11th graders with 2.7% or 2168 self-reporting they were TGNC. Students also shared four health status measures in regard to their physical and mental health and three care utilization measures. The results sadly show that TGNC teens self-reported poorer health status and lower rates of health maintenance visits.
Why? We asked Dr. Daniel Shumer, (10.1542/peds.2017-4079) endocrinologist and specialist in care of TGNC youth at the University of Michigan, to share his thoughts on the findings in this study in an accompanying commentary. Dr. Shumer offers insightful comments regarding what we can learn from the self-report of these teens such as the way they view themselves as not just with a binary view of one gender or another but on a continuum of genders. He also reiterates the importance of TGNC teens having a medical home to help they and their families build the strengths and resiliency needed so these adolescents don’t just survive but thrive. Reading the findings in the study and Dr. Shumer’s commentary will go a long way to helping to reduce the health care disparities that exist for the TGNC population and improve the overall health and well-being for a population that needs just as much if not more strength building than their cisgender peers.