Medical researchers say a new iPhone app will help them shed some light on the unique health issues faced by the LGBT community.

Based on the iPhone ResearchKit app, the version developed by the University of California at San Francisco will survey a wide range of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people about health matters such as HIV/AIDS, cancer, obesity, smoking, mental issues and depression, the researchers say.

Information collected by the iPhone app and from Web users will allow the creation of the largest database yet put together of the physical, social and mental issues facing gay and transgender men and women, they explain.

It's all part of the PRIDE study, which stands for Population Research in Identity and Disparities for Equality.

People wishing to participate in the study can install the PRIDE app, available as a free download at the Apple App Store, or take part by way of the website, http://www.pridestudy.org.

The website and the app are now available for registrations, the researchers say.

"Ideally we would like to get tens of thousands of participants and follow people for decades, something like 30 years," says UCSF nephrologist Dr. Mitchell Lunn, co-director of the PRIDE study. "The goal is to figure out how being a sexual or gender minority influences physical or mental health."

The PRIDE researchers point out that health information on the LGBT community is lacking, leaving the community "understudied and underserved in health care settings," says Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, a UCSF professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics in the university's School of Medicine.

The study will be conducted in two parts, the researchers explain, beginning with a "community listening" phase to gather and analyze census and demographic data to comprehend the LGBT community's health issues and priorities.

This will be followed by a traditional longitudinal cohort study to frame and answer prioritized questions, a phase that should begin six to nine months from now, the researchers say.

Some previous studies at a small scale have suggested the LGBT community is more prone to anxiety and depression than the general population and is at greater risk of suicide, they point out.

Some behaviors, such as smoking, also appear to be more prevalent, but little is known about such issues across the LGBT population, they say.

"There's a real lack of evidence-based information on community health," says UCSF research fellow Juno Obedin-Maliver. "The current landscape for LGBTQ health is less of a map and more of a signpost in the desert. We aim to create that map."

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