Karen Ocamb

HHS Sec Sebelius Commits to Collecting LGBT Data in Health Surveys

Filed By Karen Ocamb | June 22, 2011 4:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics, The Movement
Tags: Department of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, LGBT demographics, statistical data

HHS-Sec-Sebelius--206x300.jpgOne of the key points made recently by both gay demographer Gary Gates at the Williams Institute and Ann Haas from the the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention on LGBT Youth and Suicide Prevention is the importance of collecting data on LGBT people to better understand where problems lie and how to help.

At a White House news conference on Tuesday, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius committed to starting to collect LGBT data as part of federal health surveys, according to a story by Chris Johnson in the Washington Blade.

Sebelius said that HHS "fully intend[s] to collect LGBT data" through federal surveys. "So it is definitely a commitment," Sebelius said, adding:

"We will be adding data questions to the national health surveys. And right now we are looking at developing a slew of questions, market-testing them, coming back and making sure we have the right way to solicit the information that we need.....The problem is that it's never been collected, and what our folks came back to us with is we have to figure out -- and we're working with providers and advocates right now to actually market-test the questions -- how to ask questions in a way that they elicit accurate responses, because collecting data that doesn't give an accurate picture is not very helpful in the first place....And there has been so little attempt, either directly to consumers or to parents or to anybody else, to ask questions about LGBT health issues that we don't even know how to ask them."

Gates told the Blade that the commitment from Sebelius "fantastic" but noted that "questions on sexual orientation and gender identity 'need not start from scratch.'" The Blade reports:

"We know a great deal already about how to measure sexual orientation and some recent studies have also highlighted promising approaches to measuring gender identity," Gates said. "HHS now has a real opportunity to develop an open and transparent process as they assess how to best utilize this body of research to inform how they achieve LGBT inclusion in their data collection. That process must be transparent and involve experts from both inside and outside of the government as well as experts from the LGBT community."

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Great news. Better late than never.