May 22, 2018 at 8:47 am EDT | by Chris Johnson
CDC denies LGBT questions removed from federal health survey
LGBT Health, gay news, Washington Blade, health care, improving

The CDC denies it has eliminated LGBT questions on a federal health survey. (Public domain image)

Despite a report the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention had removed LGBT questions from a federal health survey, the agency insists no decision has been made to omit the module.

Bernadette Burden, a CDC spokesperson, said the agency is still working on the 2019 version of the Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance System, or BRFSS, but still plans to include questions allowing respondents to identify their sexual orientation and gender identity.

“The 2019 BRFSS questionnaire has not been finalized,” Burden said. “The sexual orientation and gender identity optional module is an approved optional module for the BRFSS and there are plans to make it available in 2019. States may choose to use this optional module for their 2019 BRFSS questionnaires.”

The CDC provides the BRFSS to states to obtain data on risk behaviors and health conditions in the U.S. population. The LGBT module in the BRFSS — an optional module since 2014 — was used in more than 30 states and territories and provided the first representative snapshot of transgender health in the United States.

The availability of that information seemed in peril last week when the Williams Institute, an LGBT think-tank at the University of California, Los Angeles, issued a statement declaring a CDC official said during a Denver conference the LGBT module would no longer be included in the BRFSS starting in 2019.

The removal of LGBT questions from federal surveys has been a trend in the Trump administration. Last year, the Department of Health & Human Services disclosed plans to eliminate a question allowing elders to identity as LGBT on the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants. Although HHS restored the sexual orientation question after a backlash, the department maintained the decision to eliminate the gender identity question.

Rachel Dowd, a spokesperson the Williams Institute, insisted the think-tank heard the CDC official disclose the LGBT question would be removed from the BRFSS during the conference, but is pleased the agency will keep the module.

“A CDC official disclosed at the American Association for Public Opinion Research conference that the optional SOGI module was being dropped from the BRFSS,” Dowd said. “We are encouraged that the CDC is now stating that there are plans to make the SOGI module available in 2019. We look forward to receiving affirmative confirmation that the SOGI module will indeed be included in the BRFSS in 2019 and going forward.”


Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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