ILGA-Europe’s definition of health

Find out how ILGA-Europe defines health and the ways we advocate for healthy lives of LGBT people in Europe.

Defining health...

“Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

- World Health Organization, 1946


“Health is a resource for everyday life, not the objective of living. Health is a positive concept emphasizing social and personal resources, as well as physical capacities."

- WHO, Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion, 1986

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ILGA-Europe concurs with the definitions of the World Health Organization. Additionally, we seek to explore the particular aspects of health that concern the LGBT community. In doing so, we will identify and create space at the European level to advocate for the health needs of the LGBT community.

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Heath Concerns of the LGBT Community

  • Access to services
  • Access to information
  • Discrimination by healthcare providers
  • Disclosure to healthcare providers
  • Confidentiality
  • Mental health
  • Reproductive health
  • Visitation of diverse families

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More than seeing a doctor: Access, discrimination, disclosure, and confidentiality

While LGBT people might have superficial ‘access’ to a doctor, full access to health services does not exist unless an individual can trust his or her healthcare provider with sensitive information, including information regarding one’s sexuality and/or gender identity. A healthcare provider’s bias could lead to:

  • Concealment of sexual orientation or gender identity that compromises diagnosis and treatment of illness
  • Delayed medical care and reluctance to seek preventive care
  • Failure to receive services otherwise available, especially reproductive services
  • Communication of sensitive information by the healthcare provider that violates confidentiality

Mental health

The LGBT community faces social and cultural stressors that factor into the mental health of individuals. Therefore, psychological and psychiatric caregivers should take these particular stressors into account when providing treatment. Some of the mental health concerns are:

  • Sexism and heterosexism
  • Transgender expression in dominant culture
  • Ostracism from family, relgious communities, and other conventional support systems
  • Violence against the LGBT community

Reproductive health

While there is no right to create a family under European law, providers of reproductive health services are not able to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation when offering services to the public (see E.B. v. France , a case decided by the European Court of Human Rights). Each European state has specific laws that regulate reproductive services, and ILGA-Europe is crafting a strategy to gain access to these services for LGBT people across Europe.

Visitation of diverse families

Health care providers often do not recognise the diverse families of LGBT people, including partners and children. Since legal recognition of LGBT families is not uniform across Europe, visitation is often left to the discretion of doctors and nurses. Therefore, the issue of family recognition becomes relevant in ILGA-Europe’s work on health as we advocate visitation rights for all types of family members when receiving health care.

Continuing research

Because of the lack of available data, ILGA-Europe is working with our Member Organisations to obtain accurate and current information on the health concerns of LGBTI people in Europe.

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If you have questions or concerns, please contact Sophie Aujean, Policy & Programmes Officer.

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