Update: UCLA academic says federal government needs to do better research on the LGBT community. After the jump.

A major study on the health of the gay community has been released today by a blue ribbon committee from the Institute of Medicine, an independent non-profit that's an arm of the National Academy of Sciences.

Some of the findings may be unsurprising — the new study, for example, finds that LGBT youth have “an elevated risk for attempted suicide and depression.”

But what is startling is that a panel of top experts continually points out that medical researchers still don't know much about the health of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, and they need to know a lot more.

“While some research about the health of LGBT populations has been been conducted,” a summary of the study reads, “researchers still have a great deal to learn … Researchers face a number of challenges in understanding the health needs of LGBT populations, including a lack of data.”


Nearly 30 years into the AIDS crisis, more than 40 years after the Stonewall Riots, and 63 years since the first Kinsey report, and gay health information is still hard to find?

The Institute of Medicine Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Issues and Research Gaps and Opportunities is chaired by family medicine professor Robert Graham of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. He's joined by colleagues from John Hopkins University, Harvard, the University of Virginia, the University of Chicago and many other esteemed colleges and universities.

They are not a crew of slouches.

For this committee to say that LGBT folks have been under-researched should raise bright red flags and sound loud alarms that something has been terribly wrong with how we've been treated by the medical profession, including federal and state government researchers.

In the summary's conclusion, it states once again, “To advance understanding of the health needs of all LGBT individuals, researchers need more data about the demographics of these populations, improved methods for collecting and analyzing data, and an increased participation of sexual and gender minorities in research.”

Sounds all fine and good, but how is that going to happen? What kind systemic changes need to be made at American universities and state and federal governments to get better research? It is, after all, a life or death situation.

Update, 10:30 a.m.:

Dr. Gary J. Gates, a Williams Institute Distinguished Scholar at UCLA, says about the gay health study: “I applaud the [Institute of Medicine] report's clarion call for LGBT inclusion in federal data sources and within publicly-funded research. Let's hope that federal statistical agencies charged with collecting data designed to measure the health and economic well-being of the American population will heed this call. Better data provides the building blocks for future research.

“The report's acknowledgment of the diversity of the LGBT community is also impressive as it highlights the need for research that considers the unique challenges faced by the transgender community, LGBT youth and seniors, and LGBT people of color. This groundbreaking report should mark the beginning of a concerted effort by the federal government to better understand the lives of the 9 million LGBT Americans who have been too often marginalized by both society and the research community.”

Dr. Gates was a reviewer for the Institute of Medicine study, and the Williams Institute's work is cited a number of times throughout the report.

First reported at 8 a.m.

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at pmcdonald@laweekly.com.

LA Weekly