New Resource: Publication on Lessons Learned from Sexual Orientation Surveillance in New Mexico

by Joseph Lee
Network Steering Committee Member

Is sexual orientation too controversial to ask on state surveys?

No more so than race and weight according to researchers at the New Mexico Department of Health and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC).

In the first look at statewide data over time and in a rural state, Nicole VanKim and James Padilla from New Mexico’s Dept. of Health and Adam Goldstein and myself from UNC compared how often people refused to answer “sensitive” questions about their identity, income, and weight in state surveys from 2003-2008. Income was, by far, the most refused question. People refused to answer questions about sexual orientation at similar levels as race and weight in the state’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey.

Previous studies looked only at women and healthcare professionals’ willingness to answer questions on sexual orientation or focused in the Pacific Northwest or New England. New Mexico’s results show that sexual orientation questions can easily be part of routine data collection in a rural border state. The authors note that the only reasons for not including sexual orientations are likely political and call on states and the CDC to add sexual orientation questions to document and track health inequalities.

The study is published in the December issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

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