Data on LGBT populations to be collected in major federal health survey

HHS acts on Institute of Medicine recommendation.

Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), announced on June 29 that HHS would begin in 2013 to collect data about respondents’ sexual orientation as part of the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS).  She also said that the department would work to develop methods for collecting data about gender identity which would eventually be incorporated into the NHIS as well.  Until recent years, survey methods for assessing gender identity have not received as much attention from researchers as have methods for assessing sexual orientation.

The NHIS, which is administered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (an HHS agency), is one of the major sources of information about the health of the population of the United States.  Its results are widely used by researchers, policymakers, and advocates.
Incorporating the collection of data about sexual orientation and gender identity into federal surveys was a major recommendation of a recent report by the Institute of Medicine on the health of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people.  That report was commissioned by the National Institutes of Health (another HHS agency).  Collecting data about sexual orientation and gender identity allows for the health status of the LGBT population and its various subpopulations to be assessed and for health policies and interventions to be appropriately targeted.

The American Psychological Association (APA) has called for collection of these data in federal surveys for over a decade.  APA will continue to advocate for incorporation of data collection for both sexual orientation and gender identity into the NHIS and, where scientifically appropriate, into other major federal health and social surveys as well.