January 4, 2013

Plans for Advancing LGBT Health Research

First, it is clear from the portfolio analysis in the Research Coordinating Committee (RCC) report that research opportunities in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) health span the interests of a number of NIH institutes, centers, and offices (ICOs). Indeed, the LGBTI funding opportunity announcements released in February 2012 include areas relevant to twelve ICOs. Gaps and opportunities identified in the RCC report include a number of areas of health including but not limited to depression, suicide, obesity, cancer risk, long-term hormone use, HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections, and substance use and abuse including alcohol, smoking, and other drugs, recognizing that there are unique health needs for specific populations within the LGBTI umbrella. A better understanding of how LGBTI health needs change throughout the lifespan and how they are affected by other factors such as race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status is also needed. To continue to address this array of health issues and research opportunities the RCC has been reconstituted under the leadership of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities. The new LGBTI RCC will serve as an established trans-NIH coordinating committee to facilitate and coordinate collaborations and other activities related to LGBTI health across the NIH ICOs as well as with other HHS agencies. The NIH LGBTI RCC will provide an important forum for discussing the diverse health issues for these communities and serve as a catalyst for developing additional research and training initiatives to ensure that LGBTI health needs continue to be identified, addressed, and incorporated in our research and training initiatives, funding opportunities, and programs.

Second, the NIH recently provided support for an IOM workshop entitled Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Data Collection in Electronic Health Records: A Workshop. This workshop brought together a small, diverse group of stakeholders to provide different viewpoints on the collection of sexual orientation and gender identity data in electronic health records. The IOM report on LGBT health includes a specific recommendation on this topic. The NIH committed to supporting this workshop because routine data collection and standardized methods on sexual orientation and gender identity are critical for advancing the understanding of LGBTI health needs as well as an LGBTI health research agenda. The NIH looks forward to continuing to collaborate with the IOM and other partners on LGBTI research matters.

Third, the NIH is developing outreach plans that will include encouraging staff from our ICOs to access professional development on LGBTI health through activities such as attending meetings, conferences, and symposia related to LGBTI health. Through these activities, NIH staff will gain better understanding of the research issues and challenges, and LGBTI health researchers will gain sound technical advice for navigating the NIH grant and funding system.