Five federally qualified health centers that specialize in LGBTQ health care – along with the PRIDE Study, the first large-scale, long-term national health study of LGBTQ+ people – have launched a research collaborative known as the We Count Collaborative: Impacts of COVID-19 on LGBTQ Health. The collaborative seeks to bridge the gap in knowledge about COVID-19 health experiences of LGBTQ people, including rates of infection and outcomes. The five health centers – Los Angeles LGBT Center, Callen-Lorde Community Health Center (New York), CrescentCare (New Orleans), Howard Brown Health (Chicago) and Whitman-Walker Institute (Washington, D.C.) – and the Stanford Medicine-based the PRIDE Study with a collaborating site at the University of California, San Francisco, have been on the frontlines of the country’s response to the COVID-19 crisis and can collect real-time data crucial for this project and for future public health policy recommendations.
As COVID-19 began to ravage communities in 2020, LGBTQ health-focused organizations advocated for the collection of sexual orientation and gender identity data to understand the full health needs of the community.
“Our pooled data will allow for a novel and robust analysis of COVID-19’s impact on access to health care for vulnerable LGBTQ clients,” Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Robert Bolan said. “The capability to collect and report on data trends across our geographically diverse sites will inform vital public health policy around prevention, education and provision of services for LGBTQ communities.”
This advocacy continued throughout 2020, culminating in an open letter to the Association of State and Territorial Health Officers to ensure outreach to LGBTQ communities and to request that sexual orientation and gender identity data collection be a mandated part of COVID-19 vaccine distribution efforts.
With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2021 report indicating sexual minority persons experience higher rates of underlying illnesses related to severe outcomes of COVID-19, data tracking on the virus’ health impacts in LGBTQ communities is more imperative than ever.
“The We Count Collaborative is leveraging the inclusive data-collection policies at our individual FQHCs to capture the unique circumstances and distinct needs of LGBTQ persons, providing critical information,” Whitman-Walker Institute’s Manager of Data Analytics Eleanor Sarkodie said.
For information, visit bit.ly/thewecount and lalgbtcenter.org.
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