In 2011, the Institute of Medicine acknowledged that while the LGBT people have distinct health experiences and needs, much is not known about what these experiences and needs are. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also only started to account sexual orientation in the annual National Health Interview Survey two years ago.

Now, a group of researchers has launched what may prove to be the biggest national study of bisexual, gay and transgender people and it is using a device that many Americans use: the iPhone.

Dubbed PRIDE (Population Research in Identity and Disparities for Equality), the study will utilize an iPhone app to gain more insights on the special health needs of the members of the LGBTQ population.

Earlier small scale studies already hint that the members of the LGBTQ community have higher risks for depression, anxiety and suicide. Certain behaviors such as smoking are also prevalent in this group but little is known about the occurrence of these behaviors in the population as a whole and the interventions that could decreases the risks of LGBTQ people.

The goal of the study is to assess the attitudes, odds and outcomes of the LGBTQ people for a range of health conditions and diseases such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, obesity and depression by involving tens of thousands of men and women that the scientists hope would participate. Six hundred participants have so far signed up for the study albeit the researchers want to reach thousands more.

Those who want to sign up can download the app to their iPhone and fill out the initial enrolment form with some demographic information.

"The LGBTQ community has been understudied and underserved in health care settings," said University of California San Francisco Center for Vulnerable Populations director Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo. "This timely study helps fill the gap in our understanding of health and disease risk in this population, and importantly involves and engages members of these communities in this health-related research in important and novel ways."

The study is composed of two parts and starts with a phase where researchers will collect and understand the demographic and census data to better understand the health questions and priorities of the LGBTQ community. Prioritized questions will then be indetified and answered in a longitudinal cohort study that the researchers anticipate to start in about six to nine months.

Photo: Ben Tavener | Flickr

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