LGBTQ Health Advocate
Columbus Public Health
Back at Baldwin Wallace for the last day of the LGBTI Health Research Conference and the morning is being spent on very detailed analysis of the Institute of Medicine‘s National Institutes of Health-commissioned 2011 report “The Health of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People: Building a Foundation for Better Understanding” The Health of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People: Building a Foundation for Better Understanding.”
Dr. Walter Bockting, of Columbia University who served on a committee that penned the report, returned to the stage to offer a brief history of the document, it’s findings/recommendations and next steps. Most striking was that the main point made by the study, which is there’s a general lack of research when it comes to sexual orientation and gender identity, a fact many of us are very much aware of, but I think the impact of this report is in the robust list of recommendations the study produced for NIH. Here are few:
- NIH needs to implement a comprehensive research agenda.
- Sexual orientation and gender identity data needs to be collected in all NIH federally-funded research.
- Sexual orientation and gender identity data also needs to be collected in electronic medical records.
- Research training should be created by NIH that is specific to sexual orientation and gender identity.
- Encourage NIH grant applicants to address the inclusion or exclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity. (This is already a requirement for other marginalized groups, such as racial minorities.)
- Identify sexual orientation and gender identity among the NIH official list of minority populations with disproportionate health disparities.
Dr. Bockting himself said at one point what I’ve been thinking since I read the study months ago, “A year ago I was skeptical about if we would receive the support needed to see these recommendations through. Without support it will be very difficult for us to make any progress.” However he went on to say, “But things are really beginning to look up and I think we’re going to begin making some strides.”
Dr. Bockting’s statements were overwhelming verified later by Dr. Rashada Alexander, a Health Science Policy Analyst at NIH. She discussed how NIH was responding to the IOM report, most notably the creation of the NIH LGBTI Research Coordinating Committee whose task is to create a national strategic plan for sexual orientation and gender identity research. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that this group existed and will be releasing their strategic plan by the end of the year. She also went on to discuss a funding opportunity announcement NIH has released specific to LGBTI health research and and other efforts of the NIH regarding LGBTI health.
It’s very empowering to know that our federal government is taking an intentional approach to studying LGBTI health, especially when this was something that wasn’t possible just five years ago. I feel as if I’m watching systemic change take place right before my eyes. It’s a very exciting time to be an LGBTI health researcher!