May 8, 2009

Eight Senators Back Funding Aimed at Improving Health Outcomes in LGBT Community

Senators Urges Inclusion of LGBT Question to the National Health Interview Survey

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and seven of his senate colleagues called for a $2 million funding increase for the Center of Disease Control (CDC) to add a question regarding sexual orientation and gender identity to the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS).

Federal health surveys gather data on a range of demographic information, including age, sex, race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status, to determine funding and program priorities for federal, state, and local government. But these surveys omit gender identity and sexual orientation criteria, leaving lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communities without important tools to assess and take measures to improve their health.

In a letter to Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Ranking Member Thad Cochran (R-MS), Senators Whitehouse, Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Chris Dodd (D-CT), John Kerry (D-MA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) emphasized that including a question about sexual orientation and gender identity on the NHIS will allow health researchers, LGBT community organizations, and government agencies to better assess the health and wellness issues impacting the LGBT community. This would also allow both private and public funds to better target evidence-driven LGBT health programs.

“This increase in funding to the CDC would help gather vital demographic data to help improve health outcomes in the LGBT community,” Whitehouse said. “I am committed to making sure that our country’s laws treat all people fairly and protect them all equally, regardless of gender, gender identity or sexual orientation.”

According to the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) standards, a survey question on LGBT identity has already been developed; the $2 million funding increase the senators request would go to question testing, updating surveys, training interviewers, and compiling and analyzing data.

As a U.S. Senator, Whitehouse has established a strong record on issues of importance to the LGBT community. In the 110th Congress, he cosponsored the Tax Equity for Domestic Partners and Health Plan Beneficiaries Act (S. 1556), which would extend the income tax exclusion for health benefits, now available only to spouses, to cover domestic partners as well; and the Uniting American Families Act (S. 1328), which would amend immigration law to give permanent same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual citizens to sponsor their spouses to become legal permanent residents in the United States.

Last year, Whitehouse received the highest possible rating from the national civil rights organization Human Rights Campaign (HRC) for his record of supporting legislation that combats discrimination against LGBT Americans. Whitehouse was one of 16 senators to achieve 100 percent in the 2009 Congressional Scorecard.


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