Valley Health System earns “LGBTQ+ Healthcare Equality High Performer” Designation in Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Healthcare Equality Index

PARAMUS, NJ, June 4, 2024 – Valley Health System is proud to announce its designation as an “LGBTQ+ Healthcare Equality High Performer” by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation (HRC).

The designation was awarded in the 16th iteration of HRC’s Healthcare Equality Index (HEI). A record 1,065 healthcare facilities actively participated in the HEI 2024 survey and scoring process. Of those participants, 462 received the “LGBTQ+ Healthcare Equality High Performer” designation.

"We are honored to have received this recognition, as it reinforces our commitment to promoting LGBTQ+ health equity and eliminating the disparities that persist in healthcare,” said Raffaele M. Bernardo, DO, FACP, AAHIVS, Medical Director of LGBTQ+ Services for Valley Medical Group. “Although the HEI designation helps to reflect Valley’s ongoing commitment to creating an inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ people, there is much more work to be done. This recognition helps to motivate us to continue advocating for greater health equity and access to care for the LGBTQ+ community.”

This year’s HEI comes as LGBTQ+ adults are twice as likely as non-LGBTQ+ adults to be “treated unfairly or with disrespect by a doctor or healthcare provider” in the last three years, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

“Valley is here to provide members of the LGBTQ+ community the comprehensive healthcare they need in a safe and affirming space provided by allied health professionals,” said Dr. Bernardo. “Our Center for LGBTQ+ Care offers primary care services in addition to HIV prevention services and treatment; transgender care, including gender-affirming hormone therapy; gynecologic services; sexual health services; referrals to fertility services; and more.”

Staff at the Center can refer patients to allied Valley physicians, should a patient require a visit with a specialist.

Key highlights from this year’s HRC Health Equality Index report include:

Targeted health disparities reduction plans: Encouragingly, 71% of participating healthcare facilities have an official plan for reducing health disparities that specifically includes LGBTQ+ patients in addition to race, ethnicity, and linguistic concerns.

Work to be done: Only 27% have an externally promoted specific program to provide patient navigation or advocacy services to transgender patients.

Bias elimination and welcoming interactions: Just over half (53%) have a policy or policies that specifically outline procedures and practices aimed at eliminating bias and insensitivity, and ensuring appropriate, welcoming interactions with transgender patients.

Electronic health record sexual orientation and gender identify data: Major increases have been seen in the number of healthcare facilities collecting sexual orientation and gender identity-related (SOGI) data in their Electronic Health Records (EHR) systems. Seven of the eight relevant data points had double-digit increases.

Pronouns in electronic health records: The ability to collect and display a patient’s pronouns rose from 44% to 74%. This is an important tool to help prevent misgendering a patient.

Family and Medical Leave Act-equivalent benefits: 38% offer Family and Medical Leave Act-equivalent benefits that allow employees to take family and medical leave to care for same-sex partners as well as the children of a same-sex partner, regardless of biological or adoptive status – this is up from 34% in 2022.

Comprehensive benefits for domestic partners: 41% provide medical and comprehensive health benefits to domestic partners of benefits-eligible employees, up from 34% in 2022. This is the first increase in this measure since the 2015 Obergefell decision on same-sex marriage.

Employee resource groups: 72% have an officially recognized LGBTQ+ employee resource group.

Community engagement and support: 92% took part in or supported one or more LGBTQ+ related events or initiatives in their service area.

To read the full Healthcare Equality Index report, please click here. For more information about LGBTQ+ care at Valley, visit

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