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Conference focuses on LGBT health issues
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Carrie Maxwell, Windy City Times

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Health and wellness across the lifespan was the theme of the second annual Chicago LGBTQ Health and Wellness Conference at Northwestern Memorial Hospital's Feinberg Pavilion Nov. 20.

About 200 professors, students and community members gathered to hear the latest in LGBT health research as well as proposals for future avenues of study. IMPACT, the LGBT Health and Development Program at Northwestern University and the Center on Halsted hosted the day-long conference.

Dr. Brian Mustanski, associate professor in the department of medical social sciences and director of the IMPACT Program at Northwestern; Dr. Claudia Mosier, director of mental health at the Center on Halsted; and Eric Conley, vice-president of operations at Northwestern Memorial Hospital welcomed attendees and shared details about the day's events.

"The mission of the IMPACT program is to conduct translational research that improves the health of the LGBT community. We primarily do that through research projects that are funded by the National Institutes of Health ( NIH ), the Centers for Disease Control, the Chicago Department of Public Health, and various foundations," said Mustanski. Mustanski also said that the IMPACT program collaborates with the Center on Halsted on a number of initiatives.

Mosier explained that the Center on Halsted's mission is to secure the health and well-being of the LGBT community and shared details about the mental health department that she heads.

Dr. Lawrence Tabak, principal deputy director at the NIH Department of Health and Human Services, delivered the keynote address. He gave an overview of what the NIH does, noting that the institute oversees medical and behavioral research for the United States, and includes many agencies dedicated to specific areas of research. Tabak noted that the NIH's Institute of Medicine ( IOM ) commissioned the first ever report on LGBTI health research in 2009, "The Health of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People: Building a Foundations for Better Understanding."

Tabak said the IOM report for fiscal year 2010 uncovered research challenges including the diversity among and within the LGBTI population, methodological limitations, and concerns with self-identification and privacy. The NIH formed the LGBT Research Coordinating Committee to consider responses to the IOM report, he added.

Tabak said the findings concluded that LGBT research was spread among 13 institutes, centers and offices, with the primary research areas consisting of behavioral and social sciences, mental health and drug abuse, particularly as it relates to HIV/AIDS. The report also showed that aging, alcoholism, cancer, depression, obesity, smoking, suicide and violence research received very little attention from NIH institutes, centers or offices.

Cultural competency among clinicians, researchers and staff; improving communication between NIH and advocacy/research communities; and the inclusion of LGBTI populations in Funding Opportunity Announcements are important steps that need to be made to expand LGBT health and wellness research," said Tabak.

Following the keynote address, Tabak and Mustanski moderated a listening session where 12 individuals presented topics that "will inform the development of an NIH LGBTI Research Strategic Plan with the aim to make sure that the motto of the NIH 'From Discovery to Health' applies to all Americans." Among the speakers were the University of Chicago's Alida Bouris; Tonda Hughes of the University of Illinois at Chicago; The Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health's Joy Messinger; AIDS Foundation of Chicago's Jim Pickett; and Northwestern University's Michelle Birkett. Subjects ranged from family health to sexuality education.

A poster session, reception and student-research awards rounded out the day's events. Three groups, including the poster session participants, received awards for outstanding presentations.

See and for more information.

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