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Targeted Interventions Found to Increase Healthy Habits of Lesbian and Bisexual Women

by HRC staff July 14, 2016

Post submitted by Ashley Jeffrey, HRC Foundation Coordinator 

A groundbreaking study found that programs designed specifically for lesbian and bisexual women helped participants significantly increase their physical activity and reduce their body weight.

Healthy Weight in Lesbian and Bisexual Women: Striving for a Healthy Community (HWLB) conducted the study, which was funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The study tested the effectiveness of culturally tailored weight and fitness interventions for lesbian and bisexual women. Intervention processes for the study enrolled overweight lesbian and bisexual women ages 40 and older in weekly group meetings, nutrition education and physical activity. Participants also completed pre- and post-intervention surveys.

HRC’s collaborative resource Health Disparities Among Bisexual People noted that bisexual women face significant health disparities compared with the general population of women in the U.S. Most notably, bisexual women face higher rates of obesity than heterosexual women, but also higher rates of heart disease than heterosexual women and even higher rates of breast cancer and all cancers than the general population of women.

“Some groups of lesbian women are more likely to be overweight and obese than females of other sexual orientations,” a 2012 publication from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) noted. “Specifically, higher prevalence rates of obesity have been found among lesbians who are: African-American; live in rural or urban areas; have lower levels of education; and are from a low socioeconomic status.”

The HWLB study found that participants in the pedometer and mindfulness programs were more likely to increase their total minutes of physical activity by 20 percent, and those in the gym group were more likely to experience a 5 percent decrease in waist-to-height ratio.

“Nearly 60 percent of the HWLB participants increased their weekly physical activity minutes by 20 percent while 29 percent decreased their waist-to-height ratios by 5 percent,” the HWLB found. “95 percent of HWLB participants achieved one of their health objectives - which included nutrition goals as well as targets for physical activity and weight loss - while 58 percent achieved three or more.”

The HWLB initiative’s findings suggest that targeted weight and fitness interventions are effective in improving the health behaviors of lesbian and bisexual women. This research points towards a productive strategy to reduce obesity among women in the lesbian and bisexual community.

HRC Foundation’s Healthcare Equality Index (HEI) is the national LGBTQ benchmarking survey and report that helps healthcare facilities provide more equitable care to their LGBTQ patients. Please visit www.hrc.org/hei for more information on LGBTQ-inclusive healthcare facilities.

HRC staff
HRC staff


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