Officials to Begin Including LGBTs in Health Data
June 29 2011 2:20 PM ET
Federal health officials will begin collecting crucial health data on LGBT individuals, as well as drafting new standards for reporting on race, ethnicity, and other demographic characteristics, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday.
Researchers have cited inadequate data collection on sexual orientation and gender identity in federally funded surveys and electronic health records: In a consensus report released in March by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, experts recommended such data inclusion for LGBT populations, and urged the National Institutes of Health, which commissioned the report, to devote more research to LGBT health.
“Health disparities have persistent and costly affects for minority communities, and the whole country,” HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a Wednesday statement. “Today we are taking critical steps toward ensuring the collection of useful national data on minority groups, including for the first time, LGBT populations. The data we will eventually collect in these efforts will serve as powerful tools and help us in our fight to end health disparities.”
Beginning in 2013, the federal agency will begin to collect and include health questions relating to sexual orientation, as well as “begin a process to collect information on gender identity,” under the Affordable Care Act.
“I think this has been the watershed issue for LGBT scientific researchers for the past few decades,” Dr. Robert Garofalo, a committee member of the IOM study and a professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, said during a March press conference in Washington, D.C. on the study’s release. “This is something we’ve done for other populations, and quite frankly, we simply should be doing it now for this population. And I think this document goes a long way in framing it from a very scientific perspective. It’s entirely now a matter of political will to get it done.”
Dr. Ilan H. Meyer, a Columbia University professor and senior scholar at the Williams Institute at the University of California-Los Angeles, said the move by HHS “will allow public health professionals and policy makers to understand patterns of and risks for disease among LGBT people, to design effective interventions, and to track our progress over time in reducing health disparities related to sexual orientation and gender identity.”
The full HHS press release from Wednesday, after the jump:
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