Better data collection and community engagement are keys to improving health among LGBTQ people, including serious disparities among LGBTQ youth, such as higher rates of experiencing bullying and higher rates of attempted suicide.

That’s the message from two APHA leaders who sat down with APHA TV in November at the APHA 2018 Annual Meeting and Expo in San Diego. Christina Dragon, chair of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Caucus of Public Health Professionals, and Don Allensworth-Davies, the Caucus’ program chair, discussed the current gaps in LGBTQ health and the challenges of ensuring LGBTQ communities of color don’t get left behind.

“I think the most important policy and practice (that threatens LGBT health) is the lack of relevant and accurate data collection documenting the health and wellness of LGBT people,” said Dragon, a public health scientist at the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration. “Sexual and gender minorities historically have not had a lot of data collection and you can’t measure or improve or reduce health disparities when you don’t have data about those people.”

Allensworth-Davies, an associate professor at Cleveland State University, said keys to public health interventions that truly serve LGBTQ people of color are building trust and involving the community every step of the way. He quoted a community activist in Cleveland who says, “Nothing about us without us.”

“That’s absolutely the approach that we need to take if we’re going to involve communities of color in a way that benefits them and is effective for them in the long term,” he said.

Fortunately, there have been positive changes, Dragon said. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System now includes questions on sexual orientation in its core set of questions for all students. Dragon said the addition was a “remarkable advance.”

“That’s a huge and measurable — quantifiable — advance for us,” she said.

Visit APHA TV to watch Dragon’s and Allensworth-Davies’ full remarks as well as all the episodes from San Diego.

For more video from the 2018 APHA Annual Meeting and Expo, register for APHA Live. APHA Live includes on-demand, online access to 14 of the top sessions from the APHA Annual Meeting, including the Opening General Session, and the opportunity to earn up to 19 free continuing education credits. For even more educational programming from APHA 2018, consider RAMP, which includes synced PowerPoint presentations and voice recording of scientific sessions from the San Diego meeting.