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Am J Public Health. 2014 Feb;104(2):e105-12. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2013.301501. Epub 2013 Dec 12.

Research funded by the National Institutes of Health on the health of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender populations.

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Robert W. S. Coulter is with the Behavioral and Community Health Sciences Department, Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, PA. Karey S. Kenst is with the Disparities Solution Center, Mongan Institute for Health Policy, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston. Deborah J. Bowen is with Department of Community Health Sciences, School of Public Health, Boston University. Scout is with the Network for LGBT Health Equity, Fenway Institute, Fenway Health, Boston.



We examined the proportion of studies funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that focused on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) populations, along with investigated health topics.


We used the NIH RePORTER system to search for LGBT-related terms in NIH-funded research from 1989 through 2011. We coded abstracts for LGBT inclusion, subpopulations studied, health foci, and whether studies involved interventions.


NIH funded 628 studies concerning LGBT health. Excluding projects about HIV/AIDS and other sexual health matters, only 0.1% (n = 113) of all NIH-funded studies concerned LGBT health. Among the LGBT-related projects, 86.1% studied sexual minority men, 13.5% studied sexual minority women, and 6.8% studied transgender populations. Overall, 79.1% of LGBT-related projects focused on HIV/AIDS and substantially fewer on illicit drug use (30.9%), mental health (23.2%), other sexual health matters (16.4%), and alcohol use (12.9%). Only 202 studies examined LGBT health-related interventions. Over time, the number of LGBT-related projects per year increased.


The lack of NIH-funded research about LGBT health contributes to the perpetuation of health inequities. Here we recommend ways for NIH to stimulate LGBT-related research.

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