LGBT health gets 0.5 percent of NIH funding

Published: January 21, 2014

 Only one-half of 1 percent of studies funded by the National Institutes of Health between 1989 and 2011 concerned the health of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, contributing to the perpetuation of health inequities, according to a new analysis.

 
“The NIH is the world’s largest source of health research funding and has placed a low priority on LGBT health research,” says Robert W.S. Coulter, a doctoral student in the University of Pittsburgh Public Health’s department of behavioral and community health sciences.
 
“In general, LGBT people experience stigma associated with their sexual and gender minority status, disproportionate behavioral risks and psychosocial health problems, and higher chronic disease risk factors than their non-LGBT counterparts. Increased NIH funding for research on these topics, particularly focusing on evidence-based interventions to reduce health inequities, could help alleviate these negative health outcomes.”
 
About 3.5 percent of the US adult population is estimated to be gay, lesbian, or bisexual, according to recent research based on national- and state-level population surveys.
 
Coulter and his colleagues found 628 NIH-funded studies concerning LGBT health between 1989 and 2011, accounting for 0.5 percent of all NIH-funded studies. The majority of those studies focused on HIV/AIDS and other sexual health matters. When those studies were excluded, there were only 113 LGBT-related studies remaining, or 0.1 percent of NIH-funded studies during this time period.
 
After analyzing those studies, the research team found further gaps within the 628 LGBT-related studies, with 86.1 percent concerning the health of sexual minority men, only 13.5 percent focused on sexual minority women, and 6.8 percent focused on transgender populations, with some of the projects studying more than one subgroup.
 
The authors also found that there were 202 projects on the development, implementation, or evaluation of interventions. When intervention studies concerning HIV and other sexual health matters were removed, the number of projects dropped to 21.
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