NIH Moves Forward in Addressing LGBT Health Issues

Today the National Institutes of Health (NIH) issued new “Plans for  Advancing LGBT Health Research” (at http://www.nih.gov/about/director/01032013_lgbt_plan.htm)  and a report by the NIH LGBT Research Coordinating Committee, “Consideration of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) Report on the Health of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Individuals” (at http://report.nih.gov/UploadDocs/LGBT%20Health%20Report_FINAL_2013-01-03-508%20compliant.pdf).

The Plan calls for the establishment of a permanent trans-NIH LGBTI Research Coordinating Committee (RCC) 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 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 issues continue to be identified, addressed, and incorporated in our research and training initiatives, funding opportunities, and programs.”

The Plan also noted that NIH recently supported an IOM workshop entitled, “Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Data Collection in Electronic Health Records,” which helped address some of the data collection issues brought up by IOM and the RCC.

Finally, the plan says “NIH is developing outreach plans that will include encouraging staff from our ICOs [Institutes, Centers, and Offices] to access professional development on LGBTI health through activities such as attending meetings, conferences, and symposia related to LGBTI health.”

The longer report has several components that may be of interest to particular audiences.  It notes that approximately half of the NIH ICOs already support LGBT health research in their portfolios (as of 2010), with over 50% of the 232 research projects funded through regular funding streams that were not specifically focused on LGBT populations.  “Together, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) account for over 50% of the LGBT-related projects, with 11 other ICOs accounting for the remaining 50%.”

A one-page chart of the IOM Report Recommendations and Related Issues is available on page 5 of the longer Report, which also includes a list of LGBT-related meetings and conferences NIH staff attended in 2011 (pp. 22-23) and a list of the RCC members and their organizational affiliations, on page 24.

The only dark note for this reviewer was the inexplicable loss of “aging” as a specific focus of interest.  The RCC Report mentions aging as a “key health area” needing attention several times, but the Plan left the word out when it gave its own list of priorities.  Aging advocates may want to follow-up to ensure this very important topic is not lost.

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