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New IOM Report finds researchers need to better engage LGBT populations in health studies

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LGBT-report-BP.jpgResearchers need to proactively engage lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in health studies and collect data on these populations to identify and better understand health conditions that affect them, says a new report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM).

The scarcity of research yields an incomplete picture of LGBT health status and needs, which is further fragmented by the tendency to treat sexual and gender minorities as a single homogeneous group, said the committee that wrote the report.

The historic report, The Health of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People: Building a Foundation for Better Understanding, provides a thorough compilation of what is known about the health of each of these groups at different stages of life and outlines an agenda for the research and data collection necessary to form a fuller understanding.

"Based on a thorough review of the science, this report recommends a research agenda to better understand the characteristics of the LGBT population, assess their unique health needs, and to identify the factors that either compromise or promote their health and well-being," said Walter Bockting, PhD, IOM committee member and professor at the Program in Human Sexuality, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, University of Minnesota Medical School. "The report recognizes that the LGBT population is diverse in terms of gender, age, race, and ethnicity, and calls for intervention research that addresses the needs of those with documented health inequities."

LGBT individuals make up a minority of the population, therefore researchers face challenges in recruiting sufficient numbers of these individuals in general population surveys to yield meaningful data. Stigma experienced by gender and sexual minorities can make them reluctant to disclose their orientation, worsening the problem. Moreover, it is difficult to synthesize data about these groups when studies and surveys use a variety of ways to define them.

Demographic data provides the foundation for understanding any population's status and needs, federally funded surveys should proactively collect data on sexual orientation and gender identity, just as they routinely gather information on race and ethnicity, the new report says. Information on patients' sexual orientation and gender identity also should be collected in electronic health records, provided that privacy concerns can be satisfactorily addressed, the committee said.

The National Institutes of Health should support the development of standardized measures of sexual orientation and gender identity for use in federal surveys and other means of data collection.

In addition, the National Institutes of Health should provide training opportunities in conducting research with LGBT populations. Training should engage researchers who are not specifically studying LGBT health issues as well as those who are. The agency also should use its policy on the inclusion of women and racial and ethnic minorities in clinical research as a model to encourage grant applicants to address how their proposed studies will include or exclude sexual and gender minorities.

Throughout his tenure at the University of Minnesota, Bockting has conducted research on the health disparities found among transgender people.

Bockting said, "This Report recognizes that we have much to learn about the health of this subgroup of the LGBT population, and calls for research to improve access to quality, evidence-based transgender care. The acknowledgment of this still largely invisible population and the attention the Report draws to their specific health needs is enormously validating and holds the promise of new initiatives to promote transgender health."

The study was sponsored by the National Institutes of Health. Established in 1970 under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine provides independent, objective, evidence-based advice to policymakers, health professionals, the private sector, and the public. The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council make up the National Academies.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by jenae published on September 19, 2011 4:06 PM.

UN Passes First-Ever Resolution on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity was the previous entry in this blog.

A Public Health Approach for Advancing Sexual Health in the US is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by jenae published on September 19, 2011 4:06 PM.

UN Passes First-Ever Resolution on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity was the previous entry in this blog.

A Public Health Approach for Advancing Sexual Health in the US is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.