by Leo Kattari, One Colorado
For the first time in our nation’s history, the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) asked respondents about their sexual orientation. The NHIS has been providing the nation incredibly important health data about Americans since the 1950’s. The data collected from the NHIS informs who are the most vulnerable Americans and where funding priorities will fall for years to come.
The data recently released by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) provides a unique nation-wide lens on public health risk factors for lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans in areas such as tobacco use, drinking and health insurance coverage. There is a huge insufficiency of data both in Colorado and across the country about health outcomes for LGB people. This is a major step in the right direction to address those gaps.
The 2013 NHIS has mirrored other smaller-level survey results on LGB health, such as the findings that the LGB community has higher rates of tobacco and alcohol use. It also signaled that bisexual people might have more negative health outcomes than lesbian, gay and straight people, especially around mental health.
As mentioned earlier, this is a major step in the right direction but we still have more work to do. It’s hard to get an accurate sample of non-straight people because language and terminology vary so much based on age, geographic region and other cultural identities. The NHIS asked respondents if they were gay, lesbian, bisexual or straight – unfortunately not all sexual identities fall into only those categories thus making data collection around sexual orientation quite a challenge.
The NHIS also did not ask any questions in regards to gender identity – excluding the opportunity to collect information on the transgender community. However, One Colorado and the GLBT Community Center of Colorado have launched a statewide transgender health survey. We’ll be collecting responses through August so please spread the word far and wide. For more information about the Colorado Transgender Health Survey, please go to: http://www.one-colorado.org/news/just-released-one-colorado-and-the-glbt-centers-transgender-health-survey/
The transgender health survey will help us coordinate efforts to ensure all Coloradans have access to inclusive, safe and affordable health care. Currently, many insurance plans have policies that specifically exclude covering transgender people from medically necessary care. As you may recall, in March 2013 the Division of Insurance released Bulletin No. B-4.49 stating that these exclusions are discriminatory under Colorado state law. The more data we have about under-served communities, the bigger impact we can have on ensuring ample health care coverage for all.
Geek out to all the fabulous data from the 2013 NHIS at http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr077.pdf.