Citing a number of challenges in understanding the health needs of LGBT populations, the authors of the report recommend collecting data on sexual orientation and gender identity in federal health surveys and programs and call on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to lay out a research agenda regarding LGBT health issues.
The Human Rights Campaign, through administrative policy recommendations detailed in its Blueprint for Positive Change, and its work on Capitol Hill, has urged HHS to collect this data and continues to work with a coalition of LGBT and health organisations to push for this important step toward eliminating LGBT health disparities.
“Adequate research and data is critical to fully understanding and addressing the unique health needs of the LGBT community,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “We have called on the federal government to address the health needs of our community and this comprehensive report by the Institute of Medicine is a step in the right direction. We urge HHS to use this report as a roadmap to fill the gaps in knowledge relating to the health status of LGBT people and commit to collecting important and lifesaving data on sexual orientation and gender identity in future health surveys.”
The authors of the report call for implementing a research agenda to advance knowledge and understanding of LGBT health which reflects the most pressing areas, specifically demographic research, social influences, health care inequities, intervention research, and transgender-specific health needs. The report focuses on the chronic stress faced by LGBT people, the health of LGBT people at different stages of life, an individual’s identities and the ways in which they interact, and the influence of the surrounding spheres of LGBT people including families, communities, and society. The report’s authors say researchers need to proactively engage lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in health studies.
The lack of significant research and data on health issues is not the only problem facing LGBT patients. Many LGBT people often decline to seek healthcare in times of need out of fear of discrimination and poor treatment by healthcare professionals. The HRC Foundation’s Healthcare Equality Index (HEI) rates healthcare facilities on their policies related to LGBT healthcare equality. The HEI can be used by healthcare facilities as an organizational assessment tool in their treatment of LGBT patients, and as a guide to safe and friendly facilities for patients. The 2011 HEI will be released later this spring.
“It is clear there are significant health disparities facing our community,” Solmonese added. “We look forward to working with NIH and HHS to identify research priorities that will begin to address them. The federal government has the tools they need to improve the health and wellbeing of LGBT people. It’s time to put them to use.”