A coronavirus patient being treated
A medical staff member treats a patient suffering from the coronavirus disease COVID-19 in the Intensive Care Unit at Scripps Mercy Hospital in Chula Vista. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Five federally qualified health centers will partner on a study seeking to increase knowledge about the COVID-19 health experiences of LGBTQ people.

“The We Count Collaborative: Impacts of COVID-19 on LGBTQ Health” is a national project that will examine factors related to the virus, including rates of infection and outcomes.

As COVID-19 began to ravage communities last year, LGBTQ health organizations advocated for the collection of sexual orientation and gender identity data to understand the full health needs of the community.

The Los Angeles LGBT Center will spearhead the study.

“Our pooled data will allow for a novel and robust analysis of COVID-19’s impact on access to health care for vulnerable LGBTQ clients,” said Dr. Robert Bolan, the center’s chief medical officer. “The capability to collect and report on data trends across our geographically diverse sites will inform vital public health policy around prevention, education, and provision of services for LGBTQ communities.”

With the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2021 report indicating that people who are LGBTQ experience higher rates of underlying illnesses related to severe outcomes of COVID-19, data tracking on the virus’ health impacts in the communities is imperative, Bolan said.

He said the LGBT Center and its partners in the study are uniquely positioned to track and report on this data as well as advise on best practices.

“Collecting information on how LGBTQ people are experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic helps us to understand how overlapping social stigmas and discrimination can cause illness among people who are often marginalized, and how public health policies can intervene to stop the spread of disease,” said Don Blanchon, CEO of the Whitman-Walker Health System.

The system oversees the Whitman-Walker Institute in Washington, D.C., which along with Callen-Lorde Community Health Center in New York, CrescentCare in New Orleans and Howard Brown Health in Chicago are the other federally qualified centers that are part of the study.

Also involved is the Stanford Medicine-based The PRIDE Study, with a collaborating site at UC San Francisco.