Although research on women's health has increased dramatically over the past several decades, lesbians remain mostly invisible in studies of health, and in healthcare settings generally. We are working to change this—at least for lesbians in the Chicago area.
Chicago is the home of the first longitudinal study on lesbian health (a longitudinal study follows the same group of people over time). The Chicago Health and Life Experiences of Women (CHLEW) study is ground-breaking not only because it will follow-up a large sample of lesbians over time, but also because it has one of the most diverse samples of lesbians ever included in a health study. The 450 lesbians in the study range in age from 18 to 84 years. More than 130 of the study participants are African American and 89 are Latina, which will enable the CHLEW to report findings about these specific lesbian communities.
Lesbian participants in the CHLEW were first interviewed in 2000-2001. These women were recruited from the Chicago and surrounding suburbs with the help of community-based organizations, community leaders, and many individual lesbians in Chicago. The CHLEW study provides a wealth of information about lesbians' health, their attitudes and beliefs, problems and stresses, and relationships with important people in their lives. Another important strength of the study is that it will compare findings from lesbians with those from a group of national sample of urban/suburban heterosexual women of the same ages. Although the CHLEW focuses on lesbians in Chicago, the results will have important implications for lesbians throughout the United States.
This is the first part of a monthly series that will focus on what we've learned from the results of the CHLEW study. In the coming weeks and months we will report on a variety of topics such as health concerns of African American lesbians, Latina lesbians, and lesbians over 50. We'll also discuss issues such as relationship satisfaction and relationship conflict; depression and other mental health issues; alcohol and other drug use; sexual identity development and coming out; healthy weight, hypertension, breast cancer and other physical health concerns.
We are now conducting the second phase of interviews with the 450 women who participated in the study in 2000-2001. The overall success of this research project depends on finding and interviewing as many women from the first phase of the study as possible. We have lost contact with about 35 of the 450 women who were interviewed three years ago. If you or anyone you know participated in the first phase of the study please call our toll-free number 1-866-933-3459 or contact us via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org). No one can replace the original participants (we cannot add lesbians to the study who did not participate in 2000-'01), so it is critically important that we locate each of the 35 missing participants. We very much appreciate your help and look forward to bringing you interesting and useful information about health issues of importance to our community.