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Research, Enhanced

Working group expands knowledge, curricula in LGBT issues.

By Brennen Jensen

Health issues in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community extend from higher rates of tobacco addiction, to possibly increased risks for certain types of cancer, to higher rates of suicide—especially among the young.

In some communities, LGBT people are subject to hostility, social stigma or discrimination—all of which can have adverse health outcomes.

Since its formation three years ago, the LGBT Working Group has sought to enhance LGBT public health research and practice at the Bloomberg School. The group’s faculty, staff and students have helped introduce a pair of new courses, launched an LGBT public health speaker series called “Realizing Equality” and created an LGBT health film series.

“There is so much more to LGBT health beyond HIV, and it is exciting and critical for the School to be building its capacity and creating knowledge across a broader range of LGBT health topics,” says working group member David Jernigan, PhD, an associate professor in Health, Behavior and Society(HBS).

“Increasing the LGBT content in the curriculum will better prepare Hopkins students to address this previously neglected area of public health and give them a competitive edge as research funders such as NIH are working to increase their investment in LGBT health,” says group member Tonia Poteat, PhD ’12, MPH, MMSc, an Epidemiology assistant professor. “Greater visibility on campus will help students feel more comfortable discussing these issues and help LGBT students feel more welcome.”

In addition to two courses (Legal and Public Health Issues in the Regulation of Intimacy, and Introduction to Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Public Health) first offered in the last couple of years, the group is working on developing several new courses.

Another aim of the group is to create a Center for Research on LGBT Health and to develop an LGBT Public Health Certificate program.

“[The] Center would provide a focal point for faculty, staff and students to conduct research, train the next generations of researchers and develop leadership in the generation of knowledge and best practice in this important and underdeveloped area of public health,” says group member Anna Flynn, a PhD candidate in Mental Health.

The group’s ultimate goal is to make the Bloomberg School the leader in the still-emerging field of LGBT public health, both nationally and internationally. “Moving the subject of LGBT health beyond HIV and its predisposing factors has not yet been done on a global scale,” says group member Chris Adkins, senior research coordinator in HBS. “Johns Hopkins could be at the forefront of this movement and start providing cutting-edge research in sexual and gender minority health.”