A local university has launched a program that fuses research, education and advocacy to address the health disparities faced by the LGBT community.
Drexel University’s Program for LGBT Health brings together a team of faculty members to raise awareness about health issues among LGBT and mainstream communities, as well as within the research and medical fields, adding the university to the very-short list of academic institutions in the country that house LGBT-health agencies.
Dr. Randall Sell, who has studied LGBT health for more than two decades, is directing the program, and will be joined by Dr. Marla Gold — dean of Drexel’s School of Public Health, out of which the program will operate — and Dr. Lisa Bowleg, Dr. Seth Welles and Dr. Augusta Villaneuva, with program manager Ted Faigle.
Gold, an out lesbian, said the creation of the program was a natural extension of the individual work of each of the researchers.
“It became apparent that we have some really dynamic faculty members in a number of departments whose areas of expertise coincide beautifully with the area of LGBT public health,” she said.
Gold said Drexel as a whole has been “very responsive and supportive” of the effort and that most of the funding came from the School of Public Health, as well as through individual research grants.
Sell, who is also openly gay, said the positive response he’s witnessed reflects greater acceptance of LGBT health research and education as an established field.
“It’s been incredibly smooth. We have total support from the university, the School of Public Health, the dean, the chair of my department; everyone at every level has been incredibly supportive, not just in words but in funding,” Sell said.
Gold stressed that the program would not compete with local LGBT organizations, but rather to assist community groups in meeting their clients’ needs.
Initial research goals include studies of risk factors for diseases; patterns of diseases and disorders that are suspected to disproportionately affect the LGBT community; healthcare access; and the impact of multiple identities, such as race and ethnicity, on health.
In addition to the research component, the program will also focus on LGBT-health education, centering on a new master’s-level degree in LGBT health.
Sell noted that the program faculty will also advocate on behalf of the community. In the summer, he and other faculty members petitioned the National Institutes of Health to fund more LGBT-health research projects, and received a confirmation from the NIH director that the agency will commission an Institute of Medicine study to look into the “current state of knowledge on LGBT concerns and disparities, to identify the best methods for investigating health concerns in these communities and to develop a strategic plan to guide the field.”
The Program for LGBT Health will host its first public presentation, “Public-Health Perspectives on the Current State of LGBT Health,” at 4 p.m. Nov. 10 at Drexel’s Bellet Building, 1505 Race St.
For more information, visit http://publichealth.drexel.edu/lgbthealth/.