Director, Centerlink’s Network for LGBT Health Equity
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DECEMBER 17, 2013
Contact: Scout, Ph.D.
NEW STUDY OF NIH RESEARCH SHOWS ONLY 0.5% OF PORTFOLIO MENTIONS LGBT
82% of LGBT Studies Focus on HIV or Sexual Health
Ft. Lauderdale, FL December 17, 2013– American Journal of Public Health just released a preview of a study highlighting the national gaps in LGBT health research. The study, “Research Funded by the National Institutes of Health on the Health of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Populations” by Coulter, Kenst, Bowen, and Scout, analyzes the prevalence of projects that make any mention of LGBT-related terms in National Institutes of Health (NIH) extramural research abstracts from 1989 through 2011. Findings show only 0.5% of the abstracts have any mention of LGBT terms, of that small number, only 18% are on topics beyond sexual health or HIV.
“In 2011 we saw the Institute of Medicine report calling for more LGBT research, then we saw a Science magazine article showing how investigators of color were less likely to get their research proposals funded. We know LGBT investigators have experienced similar stigma. This study was our best possible attempt at showing where LGBT research and investigators stand at NIH right now,” said Robert Coulter, the lead author, “To no one’s surprise, the big picture shows big problems.”
“What is perhaps most disturbing,” comments Dr. Scout, the senior author “is the relative lack of growth in research about non-sexual health issues over the decades. For example, tobacco kills more LGBT people than any other health issue, yet we found very few studies on tobacco. The top line takeaway is that we need more research on all topics, and especially more about our leading health problems. If all studies routinely collected LGBT demographic data, as was recommended by the Institute of Medicine report, our knowledge on LGBT health disparities would mushroom.” According to the paper, of the 127k studies analyzed, “Health care services, homophobia, violence, homelessness, tobacco use, and obesity were each addressed in fewer than 25 studies.”
There were other obvious gaps in the research portfolio as well, only 43 of 127k studies examined transgender health issues. Of the 628 total LGBT studies, only 14% examined lesbian health issues, only 10% mentioned youth health issues, and less than 1% mentioned LGBT elder health issues. The types of studies funded were also unevenly distributed. “We only found 21 LGBT intervention studies that weren’t about sexual health,” said Coulter. “Intervention studies examine solutions to health problems; clearly we need more intervention studies to focus on or at very least consider LGBT health issues.”
NIH has been showing signs of moving to rectify these gaps in recent years. In early 2013 they released an action plan identifying high priority areas for further Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex (LGBTI) research. In June of this year they held the first LGBTI expert input forum, where community experts were able to present many of these problems directly to the Director and the Deputy Director. Since that time, their LGBTI liaison, Dr. Rashada Alexander, has been working with the LGBTI Research Coordinating Committee to conduct additional expert listening sessions. “There is definitely movement and that’s very exciting,” notes Dr. Scout, “but we have decades of being left out. It’ll take systems change of the highest order to ensure that some year soon, when NIH invests their tens of billions of dollars on health research, LGBTI projects are an equitable part of that portfolio and all investigators know to collect LGBTI data routinely in their demographic batteries.”
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CenterLink was founded in 1994 as a member-based coalition to support the development of strong, sustainable LGBT community centers. Serving over 200 LGBT community centers across the country in 46 states and the District of Columbia, as well as centers in Canada, Israel, Mexico, China, Italy and Australia, the organization plays an important role in supporting the growth of LGBT centers and addressing the challenges they face, by helping them to improve their organizational and service delivery capacity and increase access to public resources. (www.lgbtcenters.org)
The Network for LGBT Health Equity is community-driven network of advocates and professionals looking to enhance LGBT health by eliminating tobacco use, and enhancing diet and exercise. The Network directly trains state health departments and other policymakers in LGBT cultural competency and forges bridges between those agencies and local LGBT health specialists. The Network also actively educates policymakers about opportunities to enhance LGBT wellness. (https://lgbthealthlink.wordpress.com/)