By Jill Drachenberg, Managing Editor

In an effort to close a longstanding health equity gap, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced that it is designating the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) community — which NIH refers to as “sexual and gender minorities,” or SGM — as a “health disparity population for NIH research.”

In a message announcing the decision, NIH’s director of National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable, MD, stated the SGM population in the United States has long faced less access to healthcare along with higher instances of diseases such as depression, cancer, and HIV/AIDS. Stigmatization, hate violence, and discrimination are among the barriers that this population faces in seeking healthcare, he said.

“[T]he extent and causes of health disparities are not fully understood, and research on how to close these gaps is lacking,” Pérez-Stable wrote. “Research shows that sexual and gender minorities who live in communities with high levels of anti-SGM prejudice die sooner — 12 years on average — than those living in more accepting communities.”

The health disparity population designation is an important step toward closing the healthcare gap by researching these disparities and removing barriers the SGM population faces when seeking care. The designation will also enable NIH’s Sexual and Gender Minority Research Office to lead the way in SGM health disparity research.

“This designation marks an important and necessary step in realizing NIH’s mission to advance the health of all Americans,” Pérez-Stable wrote.

For more information on NIH research rules, see monthly coverage in IRB Advisor.