The National Institutes of Health (NIH), the premier health research institution in the world, wants us to tell them what we care about in LGBTI and Two-Spirit health.
Last Thursday I joined a small group of colleagues who went down to the NIH campus for the first-ever LGBTI health research listening session. I hear there were 150 more watching the live videocast, but it was a particular honor for the dozen or so experts there to get 90 minutes to talk to the top management at an agency that controls about $30 billion in health research funding. That's when you really think about what you want to say, right? Or better yet, talk fast.
The meeting was great, and you can watch it online here. Nicely, NIH dropped a few unexpected surprises to start us off. First, gender identity has been added to their nondiscrimination protections (bow of gratitude). Second, they now have a staffer tasked with enticing more LGBTI staff to work at NIH (dust off those CVs!). Third and most surprising, they've cemented their commitment for input by launching an official Request for Information. This is basically a formal call for anyone out here to tell them what's important in LGBTI and Two-Spirit health and research. We have from now until Oct. 28 to speak up... or forever wish we had.
Comments are being collected through a simple online form. Sure, if you go there, the first question can be daunting. It starts off asking scientific details about data collection. Don't be turned off; my friends and I can go crazy there. Just slide on down that form, and you will see that they ask a bunch of questions anyone can weigh in on. "What are opportunities to expand the knowledge-base of LGBTI health?" is a great place to speak up about poor treatment you've had by providers and suggest research into interventions that can change that too-common phenomenon. Or maybe you want information on our cancer disparities, what (if any) risks there are with long-term hormone use, interventions that can stop youth suicide, why bisexual people report higher health disparities... the sky is the limit. If we want to know more about our health, this is the time to speak up. Or maybe you want to tender a few pointed ideas on training providers or supporting new researchers, or how NIH can get practical health information out to us? You've got a place to say that too.
Nicely, there are many more opportunities for LGBTI people to have input into health these days, but trust me on this one, if you only pick one place to speak up about LGBTI health, make it this one. Simply put, this is the health version of the Supreme Court saying, "So what do you think we should do about gay marriage?" And we wouldn't let that go unanswered, would we?
Remember, that online form is just one click away, right here.