BRFSS is a national survey that collects data about health status and access to healthcare. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides a set of core questions that states must include in their BRFSS surveys along with a set of optional modules that states may choose to include. Since 2014, the CDC has provided an optional module to collect data about respondents’ sexual orientation and gender identity. The module has been used by over 30 states and territories.
LGBT adults are largely invisible in the U.S. public health surveillance system because questions identifying them have been slow to be included in surveys and administrative data. Due to the size of the BRFSS and its probability sampling approach, analyses of data collected through the survey have filled critical voids in knowledge about the health of LGBT adults. Therefore, sustained inclusion of the sexual orientation and gender identity module is imperative.
The comment urges the CDC to retain the optional sexual orientation and gender identity module. Sexual orientation and gender identity data collected through the BRFSS provide vital information about LGBT people and are well-used by researchers. Over 50 published, peer-reviewed papers have used data collected through the survey to provide information about the health of LGBT adults. These analyses have produced knowledge about the health of LGBT adults across a broad range of issues, including physical and mental health, violence victimization, disability, and health insurance coverage. Additionally, the data have been used to examine the relationship between public policies and health. Actions to preserve and expand sexual orientation and gender identity data collection in the BRFSS will ensure that important data about LGBT people continues to be collected and help policymakers track progress toward improving the health of LGBT people.
Over seven hundred scholars joined the Williams Institute comment. In response to the comment, the Director of the Division of Public Health at the CDC wrote a letter expressing appreciation to the Williams Institute for helping outline the importance of this issue and offered assurance that the optional modules would remain in place in the 2019 BRFFS. In addition, the CDC would explore adding the sexual orientation and gender identity questions to the core questionnaire for 2020 and beyond.