The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced that it would begin collecting data in its population health surveys that would facilitate identification of health issues and reduction of health disparities among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) populations.

Under the plan, HHS will integrate questions on sexual orientation and gender identity into national data collection efforts. This includes the testing of questions on sexual orientation and potential incorporation of these questions into the National Health Interview Survey, the department’s flagship data instrument for collecting health information on populations, by 2013.  This would be the first step toward development of a government-wide standard for LGBT data collection.

To date, HHS surveys have not collected data on transgender status. While HHS is in the beginning stages of developing data collection on gender identity, many researchers (e.g., Williams Institute at the University of California Los Angeles and the Center for Population Research in LGBT Health at the Fenway Institute) have been working on such data collection for several years.  Before the end of 2011, HHS will hold two roundtables with key experts in collecting data on sexual orientation and gender identity. HHS officials and the experts will review existing literature, discuss proposed questions, and develop a progression plan for gender identity data testing.

Under Section 4302 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,  the HHS Secretary is authorized to ensure that any federally conducted or supported health care or public health program, activity or survey collects and reports, to the extent practicable, demographic data as deemed appropriate by the Secretary on health disparities.

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