Los Angeles LGBT Center has joined research study partners to launch nationwide collaborative project analyzing COVID-19 Health Experiences of LGBTQ People. The We Count Collaborative: Impacts of COVID-19 on LGBTQ Health brings 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.
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 FQHCs—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 (SOGI) 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 healthcare for vulnerable LGBTQ clients,” said Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Chief Medical Officer Robert Bolan, M.D. “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.”
“Collecting information on how LGBTQ people are experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic helps us to understand how overlapping social stigmas and discrimination can cause illness among people who are often marginalized, and how public health policies can intervene to stop the spread of disease,” said Don Blanchon, CEO at Whitman-Walker Health System – which oversees the Whitman-Walker Institute.
This advocacy continued throughout 2020, culminating in an open letter to the Association of State and Territorial Health Officers (ASTHO) to ensure outreach to LGBTQ communities and to request that SOGI data collection be a mandated part of COVID-19 vaccine distribution efforts
With the Centers for Disease Control’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 Center, Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, CrescentCare, Howard Brown Health, and Whitman-Walker Institute are uniquely positioned to track and report on this data as well as advise on best practices for addressing the health needs of LGBTQ communities.
“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 that allows policymakers, researchers and health professionals to quantify, describe and make policy recommendations based on the impacts of COVID-19 on LGBTQ communities,” said Whitman-Walker Institute’s Manager of Data Analytics Eleanor Sarkodie.
For updates on the research and findings of The We Count Collaborative, visit bit.ly/thewecount