(San Francisco, CA, March 31, 2011)—A groundbreaking report released today by the Institute of Medicine urges medical researchers to include the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities in health studies to gain a better understanding of their lives and unique health care needs at different stages of life.

Authored by leading experts on LGBTQ health, “The Health of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People: Building a Foundation for Understanding” concludes that the lack of sufficient health care data about LGBTQ people has resulted in an incomplete picture of the community’s overall health needs. The report is the first to comprehensively analyze the LGBTQ community’s health needs, providing a thorough compilation of existing data, and providing researchers with guidance about how to effectively continue to collect LGBTQ health data to fill in critical gaps.

One of the report authors, Family Acceptance Project Director Dr. Caitlin Ryan, a leading researcher on LGBTQ youth, has worked closely over the years with the National Center for Lesbian Rights and Equality California. She is a member of Equality California Institute’s LGBTQ Health and Human Services Network, and has been a vital part of the Network’s statewide efforts.

In discussing the report, Dr. Ryan said: “This report provides a roadmap for addressing the unmet health needs of LGBTQ people from childhood through later years. It legitimizes LGBTQ health research for the scientific community and academic institutions, and will change the way that LGBTQ health issues are talked about, taught about, studied and addressed in practice. It’s the key to open institutional closet doors to reduce serious health disparities and to promote the well-being of LGBTQ people.”

Said National Center for Lesbian Rights Executive Director Kate Kendell: “This groundbreaking report documents the urgent need for researchers to include LGBTQ people in all aspects of health care research. Without this data, our community will continue to face obstacles accessing health care and will continue to be underserved.”

In California, Senator Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego) has introduced the Survey Data Inclusion Act (SB 416), sponsored by Equality California, which would require the state to add questions about sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, domestic partnership status and the gender of a spouse as part of the voluntary demographics sections in California’s government surveys. Such data is already collected for other groups.

“We call on the California Health and Human Services Department to strengthen its efforts to eliminate health disparities for LGBTQ communities, and we applaud Senator Kehoe and the Institute of Medicine for their leadership in recognizing that investment in LGBTQ health is a crucial part of ensuring that LGBTQ people and families can contribute fully to our state’s future,” said Equality California Interim Executive Director Jim Carroll. “In a time of highly limited resources it is paramount that decision makers have relevant data to allocate those resources to achieve the greatest good. The lack of data about LGBTQ people and families continues to have a detrimental impact on the health of millions of people, particularly our most vulnerable community members whose unique health needs are invisible and literally uncounted in the state systems of care.”

Equality California Institute has launched a variety of initiatives to address LGBTQ community health needs, including the LGBTQ Health and Human Services Network, which focuses on LGBTQ inclusive health data and the Reducing Disparities Project, to assess the mental wellness needs of LGBTQ communities across the state.

read the report

The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.