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New iPhone App Will Help Conduct The Largest LGBT Health Study Ever

New iPhone App Will Help Conduct The Largest LGBT Health Study Ever

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The goal is to better understand the health of our understudied population without anyone having to leave the couch.

Face it: We already use mobile apps to wake us up, pay for Starbucks, count our calories and our steps, play music, slack off, share gossip, stare at cats, find the restaurant and the movie, buy the tickets, direct us -- and then help us tell our friends what we've done and show them via a variety of photo-sharing services. So some Northern California geniuses decided an app might be a great way to do something we don't want to do: participate in a study of LGBT health.

These medical researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, decided to use iPhones to conduct what may prove to be the largest national study of LGBT health ever, to shed some light on the population's unique health needs.

A new ResearchKit app they developed will survey a wide range of LGBT folks about health issues like HIV/AIDS, smoking, cancer, obesity, mental issues, and depression. They're calling it "the PRIDE Study." And anyone who wants to take part can do so via the Internet at PrideStudy.org even without an iPhone.

As BuzzFeed reported, the Institute of Medicine said in 2011 that LGBT people "have unique health experiences and needs, but as a nation, we do not know exactly what these experiences and needs are." It wasn't until two years ago that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's annual National Health Interview Survey even accounted for sexual orientation.

This ambitious study of LGBT health will use information collected from iPhone and Internet users to build the largest database yet of the physical, mental, and social issues that uniquely affect gay and transgender men and women.

The scientists anticipate that most of the participants will join the study by installing the app to help researchers collect health data and agreeing to contribute certain health and demographic information. Both the app and the Internet sites opened for registration last week.

"The main question there is, what is the relationship between being LGBTQ -- or more broadly a sexual or gender minority person -- and mental and physical health?" Mitchell Lunn, codirector of the PRIDE Study at UCSF, told BuzzFeed.

MacWorld reports LGBT health advocates are excited about the vast potential of tapping into the iPhone's massive user base to gather this vital information. Finding people to sign up for a medical study and getting them to come to a clinic is very difficult; now they can simply submit information on their iPhones while sitting on the couch at home.

When Stanford University released its ResearchKit-powered app to measure heart activity, over 11,000 iPhone users signed up in just a day. Typically, it would take up to over a year for a medical study to recruit that many participants.

For the remainder of the year, the PRIDE Study will ask people to suggest which health topics pertaining to the LGBT community they want the study to address, and the UCSF researchers will compile that user feedback to create the final survey questions.

Download the PRIDE Study app in the App Store or by texting PRIDESTUDY to 74121 to get a download link on an iPhone.

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