March 11, 2022

NIH-Funded NASEM Report Highlights Critical Need for SGM-Related Data Collection

I would foremost like to express my thanks to the National Academies for the groundbreaking and timely report released this week on measuring sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation. This report, which was commissioned by 19 components of the National Institutes of Health in 2020, is the most comprehensive review to date of measurement-related research for these constructs. In addition to reviewing existing research, the consensus study panel committee also made recommendations for specific measures and their use, outlined data collection principles, and highlighted recommended research areas.

This report is much needed for a variety of reasons. From what limited research that exists, we know that sexual and gender minority (SGM) populations encounter unique health disparities in comparison to heterosexual and cisgender populations. However, large gaps in our understanding of SGM health continue to persist, in part, due to the lack of adequate, consistent, and standardized data collection of sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity in research studies, administrative records, surveillance databases, and clinical settings. More reliable data is needed to better assess, understand, and address the unique health concerns and needs of SGM people. Expanding data collection on sexual and gender minorities is also critical for enhancing diversity, equity, and inclusion within the scientific and health research workforce.

This report will serve as the cornerstone for our agency’s efforts to enhance data collection that is inclusive of SGM populations. NIH plans to utilize the recommendations outlined within the report and to promote the use of recommended measures across the agency and to the health research and scientific communities. The agency will also work to prioritize the recommendations made for future research to enhance the measurement of all three constructs. I hope that this report will facilitate the collection of sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation across the broader federal landscape, and will be a springboard in launching the field of SGM health research forward.

Lawrence A. Tabak, D.D.S., Ph.D.
Acting Director, NIH