HHS adds sexual orientation to study of health disparities

The Health and Human Services Department is updating its evaluation of healthcare disparities to include gay and lesbian populations.

HHS already collects population-specific data based on race, gender, disability and other factors. It uses the data to identify differences in various groups’ healthcare needs. The department announced Wednesday that it is adding sexual orientation to the list.

HHS also announced updated standards for data collection. The agency added new categories to help identify disparities within broader ethnic groups and pulled disability criteria that the Census Bureau already uses.

Questions about sexual orientation will be added to HHS’s data-collection materials by 2013, the department said in a release.

The Fenway Institute, a Boston-based healthcare group with a specialty in gay and lesbian issues, praised the announcement.

“Hopefully this will serve as an example for other government departments and branches as they begin to recognize the unique characteristics and needs of the individuals and families who make up the American LGBT community,” Fenway chief executive Stephen Boswell said.