Current Affairs

CDC rolling back data collection about LGBT people’s health

Nick Duffy May 18, 2018
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Organiser Jay Smith also wants to heighten awareness around how anti-LGBTQ Pence is (Andrew Harrer-Pool/Getty)

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reportedly rolled back a programme collecting data relating to LGBT people’s health, in the latest sign of regression under the Trump administration.

The US federal government agency this week disclosed that it will roll back support for the collection of data on the health and well-being of LGBT people.

Since 2014, the Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) has included a module on sexual orientation and gender identity that has been used by over 30 states and territories to track health concerns relating to LGBT people.

The BRFSS system uses surveys and data collection to analyse the needs of US residents regarding their health-related risk behaviours, chronic health conditions and service use – and had been one of the only quality sources of data relating to LGBT healthcare.

Studies show that LGBT people face significant disparities in healthcare access and treatment, and the data collection had allowed researchers to look into why LGBT people are significantly more likely to suffer with mental health problems and substance use issues.

However, the CDC abruptly disclosed this week that it would scrap the data collection on LGBT issues in 2019.

Kerith J. Conron, the research director at the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, said: “The BRFSS is one of the few federally-supported data collection activities that makes the needs of LGBT people known to governmental agencies responsible for the safety, health, and welfare of the public.

“By removing LGBT measures from the BRFSS, the federal government is shirking its responsibility to LGBT Americans.”

The director of the CDC Robert Redfield, installed by Trump just a few months ago, previously served on the board of anti-gay group Americans for a Sound AIDS/HIV Policy (ASAP) – which allegedly stated that “AIDS was God’s judgment against homosexuals, spread in an America weakened by single-parent households and loss of family values.”

The concerning decision to axe the data collection follows a string of other actions across the federal government since Trump took power to abandon services and data collection relating to LGBT issues.

Adam P. Romero, the Williams Institute’s Director of Federal Policy, added: “The CDC’s announcement appears to be part of an alarming trend within the federal government aimed at limiting our knowledge about LGBT people, despite the fact that these data are vital to policy making and designing evidence-based interventions to improve health and well-being.

“Importantly, the BRFSS provided the first representative snapshot of transgender adult health and socioeconomic status.

“These data showed us that transgender people are indeed at higher risk of poverty — confirming what smaller studies conducted in HIV epicenters had observed.”

It follows a concerning trend.

Last year the Department of Health and Human Services moved to eliminate data collection on LGBT issues from critical national surveys, including the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants (NSOAAP).

The Department of Housing and Urban Development pulled information relating to LGBT homelessness from its website, and dropped involvement in projects relating to LGBT housing discrimination and homelessness.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department removed references to LGBTQ youth from an annual initiative for sex trafficking victims and attempted to block questions about sexuality and gender identity in the census,

The Department of Justice also attempted to block the inclusion of questions on sexual orientation in the US census, in an abrupt reversal of a key Obama-era policy.

Right Wing Watch, a website run by progressive group People for the American Way, recently filed a suit in a DC court, seeking to secure the release of documents related to some of the decisions to axe LGBT projects.

The suit says: “People For the American Way is [seeking] judicial action enjoining the agencies from continuing to withhold agency records and ordering the production of agency records improperly withheld.

“The agencies should be ordered to release all records relating to or consisting of decisions or directives to remove references to ‘lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning’ individuals from agency materials concerning efforts to combat problems of homelessness, discrimination, and sex trafficking.”

Related topics: CDC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Gay, Health, LGBT, US

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