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CDC Will Roll Back LGBTQ Data Collection in One of World’s Largest Health Surveys

In a move that’s become all too familiar over the past year and a half, an official with the nation’s leading health agency confirmed it will be rolling back data collection on LGBTQ people.

According to UCLA’s The Williams Institute, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will no longer survey for information on queer and trans health in its Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). The pro-LGBTQ think tank claimed in a statement that the BRFSS will no longer offer a module on sexual orientation and gender identity beginning next year.

The CDC claims the BRFSS is “the nation’s premier system of health-related telephone surveys that collect state data about U.S. residents regarding their health-related risk behaviors, chronic health conditions and use of preventive services,” as the federal agency’s website states.

Currently, the BRFSS operates data collection in all 50 U.S. states, surveying for information on an estimate 400,000 individuals each year. It’s the largest “continuously conducted health survey system in the world,” the CDC claims.

An official with the government bureau is confirmed the rollback at the American Association for Public Opinion Research in Denver on Wednesday.

The Williams Institute swiftly denounced the announcement.

“The BRFSS is one of the few federally-supported data collection activities that make the needs of LGBTQ people known to governmental agencies responsible for the safety, health and welfare of the public,” said Research Director Kerith J. Conron in a statement. “By removing LGBTQ measures from the BRFSS, the federal government is shirking its responsibility to LGBTQ Americans.”

Conron added that what makes the BRFSS so crucial is that it was one of the first surveys to allow federal researchers to understand the challenges facing transgender people in health, socioeconomic status, and overall wellbeing. It indicates that “transgender people are indeed at higher risk of poverty.”

The survey confirmed for the first time “what smaller studies conducted in HIV epicenters had observed,” Conron said.

The Williams Institute noted that the BRFSS survey results actually served as the basis for its own estimates on the U.S. transgender population. It estimates that 1.4 million adults identify as transgender nationally, which accounts for nearly .6 percent of Americans overall.

Critics claimed the move was part of a larger erasure of LGBTQ people on the part of the administration in public life, including government data collection. Recent rollbacks in federal surveys since Trump’s 2017 inauguration include information on LGBTQ elders in assisted living facilities, crime surveys on queer and trans victimization, or asking about sexual orientation and gender identity in the 2020 Census.

“The CDC’s announcement appears to be part of an alarming trend within the federal government aimed at limiting our knowledge about LGBTQ people, despite the fact that these data are vital to policy making and designing evidence-based to improve health and well-being,” said Director of Federal Policy Adam P. Romero in a statement.

The rollback of CDC data was announced the same day that the Small Business Administration (SBA) reinstated a resource page for LGBTQ-owned businesses after the portal was offline for approximately 16 months.

The White House has yet to publicly comment on the CDC decision.


Nico Lang

Nico Lang is a staff writer for INTO, covering news, politics, and global LGBTQ issues.

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