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Task Force and National Coalition for LGBT Health applaud inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity in HHS National Health Interview Survey

June 29, 2011

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Coalition for LGBT Health applaud the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for outlining an action plan to improve health data collection for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals. Today’s announcement is an important step forward in the effort to better address the health needs of the LGBT community. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Coalition for LGBT Health will track the process closely as data collection efforts progress.

Data collection that tracks the health status and experiences of LGBT individuals is essential because such data provide government agencies and community-based health care workers with information about how to offer the best health services for LGBT individuals and communities. It also will document and address health disparities experienced by LGBT people.

HHS unveiled a plan that will allow the department to more fully count and track the health of LGBT individuals by collecting and reporting sexual orientation and gender identity data on the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). The plan establishes a timeline, including benchmarks along the way, for ensuring that sexual orientation and gender identity questions are added to the NHIS survey. This process includes field testing existing questions on sexual orientation as well as developing and field testing gender identity questions with the assistance of leading researchers in the field of LGBT data collection.

Hutson W. Inniss, executive director of the National Coalition for LGBT Health, says:

This is a historic day for the field of LGBT health. At the National Coalition for LGBT Health, we have been working with our members to advocate for such progress and develop tools that can be used on these surveys. We know that LGBT individuals experience unique health disparities, and tracking this data on the national level will be a remarkable step forward to documenting and identifying ways to reduce the disparities that LGBT people face.

Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, stated:

This announcement represents huge step forward for addressing the health care needs of LGBT people in this country. Data collection is essential for establishing programs and supports that address the needs of the LGBT community in the area of health and elsewhere, and the Task Force, through the New Beginning Initiative, has been advocating for data collection around sexual orientation and gender identity on all sorts of federal surveys because if they don’t count us, we’re virtually invisible to the federal government. We look forward to supporting HHS as this process moves ahead.

Data collection in health surveys and in other contexts has been a key priority for the New Beginning Initiative, a coalition of expert organizations convened by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force working to advance LGBT policy priorities in federal administrative agencies. The National Coalition for LGBT Health has led the efforts of the New Beginning Initiative to have sexual orientation and gender identity data collected on federal and state surveys, and this announcement marks a breakthrough victory in this effort.

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