White House officials meet in Philly to talk LGBT health

    Senior White House officials met in Philadelphia Thursday to discuss health disparities for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

    Secretary of Health Kathleen Sebelius touted moves made by the Obama administration to improve access to health care and health outcomes for members of the LGBT community.

    Work is under way to integrate sexual orientation and gender identity questions into national surveys for the first time, something Sebelius called “a big step forward.”

    A 2011 Institute of Medicine report suggests gay and bisexual men and women are more prone to mood disorders and depression, and may be more at risk of substance abuse than their straight counterparts. Lesbians may be more likely to be overweight and have higher rates of breast cancer than straight women.

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    Sebelius said a lack of national data on health disparities impedes her agency’s ability to develop the best policies.

    “What we’re trying to do is collect data that then help inform health policies into the future,” Sebelius said.

    Sara Luby, who works at an HIV clinic in Pittsburgh, traveled to Philadelphia for the conference. She said this lack of data has made it hard to study health outcomes that aren’t related to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

    “It’s a huge problem, I’m a data analyst, and it’s absolutely ridiculous the amount of literature is so sparse on other health conditions that are affecting the LGBT health community,” Luby said. “We’re not talking about cardiovascular risks in lesbians, obesity in lesbian and bisexual women, we’re not talking about endocrine treatment and the health consequences of that in the trans population.”

    The gathering in Philadelphia was the first of a nationwide series of White House conferences on LGBT issues.

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