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Lecture series: public health in the gay community

SPH launches research and public discussion programs

The School of Public Health recently initiated a research program in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender public health, an effort that aims to bring a rigorous scientific approach to public health issues surrounding this visible yet underserved community.

Program founder and director Seth Welles, an SPH associate professor of epidemiology, believes there is an unmet need for a comprehensive academic research program to study concerns facing the LGBT community, including substance abuse and alcoholism, homophobia and discrimination, intimate-partner abuse, and myriad psychological issues –– including the impact of gay marriage. “These issues are significant in this community, but have yet to be addressed in a scientific manner,” Welles says.

The program includes a lecture series on topics relating to public health in the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender population. The first lecture, on November 10, Why Everyone Should Care About LGBT Health, will be presented by Stewart Landers, a senior consultant at the health-care consulting firm John Snow, Inc., who conducts studies and community-based participatory research in the areas of HIV/AIDS and LGBT health.

“Knowledge, resources, and policy regarding LGBT health have not kept pace with the many issue identified by advocates for this population,” says Landers. He will focus on why it is important to study the health of the LGBT population. “Valid information regarding the health status of the LGBT community remains scarce,” he says. “Effective programs to deliver care and prevention services need to be funded, designed, and implemented. Until there are advances in knowledge, the resources and policy needed for change will remain elusive, and both the LGBT community and society will remain at risk.”

“By offering this lecture,” Welles says, “we are taking a first step toward creating a sustainable program that brings together people from BU and other institutions interested in the health and well-being of the LGBT community. We want to let people know we are here and taking on the challenge.”

The first of three lectures planned by SPH this academic year, Landers’ talk is at 4 p.m. on Thursday, November 10, in Bakst Auditorium, 715 Albany St., on the Medical Campus. The lecture is free and open to the public.

On February 9, 2006, Randall Sell, an assistant professor at Columbia University School of Public Health’s department of sociomedical sciences, will talk about the importance of collecting and understanding LGBT demographic data in research studies. Sell is an expert in collecting sexual orientation data and has written a number of peer-reviewed papers on the topic.

On April 26, Nancy Kreiger, associate director of the Harvard Center for Society and Health, will speak about the reasons health disparities exist in the LGBT community and why it is important to understand and document the underlying causes in order to eliminate them.

The LGBT program will also extend a call for original research to be published in a new journal devoted to LGBT public health issues. The first publication is planned for next spring, to coincide with the public inauguration of the larger program.