Institute of Medicine Groundbreaking Report on LGBT Health

Apr 1, 2011

In March 2011, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies (IOM) will release a new report on health issues impacting the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) population, titled The Health of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People: Building a Foundation for Better Understanding.  The report will feature an IOM committee’s findings and recommendations on a variety of subjects, including:

•  the state of knowledge regarding LGBT health, health risks and protective factors, health disparities, and access to and utilization of health care;
•  health disparities amongst ethnic, economic, age, and gender subgroups of the LGBT population;
•  the impact of social and cultural discrimination on LGBT health;
•  methodological challenges in conducting research within the LGBT population, and potential solutions to these challenges;
•  the experiences of families with LGBT members, and the positive impact of family acceptance;
•  gaps in existing research, opportunities, and priorities for conducting health research within the LGBT population;

The report provides a thorough compilation of what is known about the health of LGBT people at different stages of life and outlines an agenda for the research and data collection necessary to form a fuller understanding.
Among major recommendations made in the report, federally funded surveys should proactively collect data on sexual orientation and gender identity, just as they routinely gather information on race and ethnicity.  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, NIH 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.

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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