Watchdog: Bisexual and lesbian health information removed from HHS website

Watchdog: Bisexual and lesbian health information removed from HHS website
© Womenshealth.gov

Information about LGBT health was removed from a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) website last fall, according to new reports from a watchdog group.

The HHS Office of Women’s Health (OWH) removed a webpage with extensive information about lesbian and bisexual health, and links that correspond to that webpage, according to reports the Sunlight Foundation released Wednesday.

The group found that some resources have gone missing and that other similar remaining content relating to lesbian and bisexual health, which was last updated in 2009, has been rendered difficult to access.

According to an HHS spokesperson, the information was simply sent elsewhere as part of an effort to make the website mobile-ready that began in 2016.

"As OWH updates its site, the outdated lesbian and bisexual health pages were removed and the health content was integrated into the relevant health topics pages across the website," the spokesperson said. "You can now find lesbian and bisexual health content by searching for relevant health topics on the womenshealth.gov website."

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The watchdog found that there is no longer a page on the website containing answers to questions about lesbian and bisexual health, including “What factors put lesbians' and bisexual women's health at risk?” and “What challenges do lesbian and bisexual women face in the health care system?”

A lesbian and bisexual health fact sheet was quietly put up at a separate URL, the reports noted. The document was last updated in 2009, compared to the removed lesbian and bisexual health webpage which was last updated in 2012. The fact sheet is also not linked from any other pages on the website, and is inaccessible by navigating through the website.

In addition, a page titled “Bisexual and lesbian health” was removed from the agency’s page covering a range of health topics “A-Z”.

According to the reports, the targeted removals have not been proactively communicated on the website publicly, as is required by federal record keeping guidelines.

The reports noted that a web page with content from a 2014 report provides information on the OWH efforts to promote LGBT health remains live.

“But these pages, which provide less comprehensive information and do not focus on directing users toward resources on other websites, do not serve as replacements for the important removed pages and resources,” the report said.

Womenshealth.gov is one of the more highly trafficked HHS websites, and was visited approximately 700,000 times over the past month.

Updated at 1:45 p.m.