About us - Frequently Asked Questions

Getting to know the LHRC

People often have questions about who we are and what we do. Below is a list of some of the most common questions. If you don't find your answers here, feel free to email us: lhrc@ucsf.edu.

  • What is the Lesbian Health Research Center?
  • What is the Mission Statement of LHRC?
  • What are the goals of LHRC?
  • How does lesbian health differ from women’s health in general?
  • Why is study of lesbian health needed?
  • Why is lesbian health research needed?
  • What types of topics or health issues does LHRC research address?
  • How does LHRC conduct research and address its goals?
  • How does LHRC evaluate its programs and services?
  • Who founded LHRC?
  • Where is LHRC located?
  • How does UCSF support LHRC?
  • What are the major programs of LHRC?
  • What is the LHRC web site and what does it provide?
  • What is the annual conference hosted by LHRC?
  • What types of periodic events does LHRC conduct? 
  • What is LHRC’s commitment to public service?
  • What is a Lesbian?
  • What is the contact information for LHRC?
    What is the Lesbian Health Research Center?
    The Lesbian Health Research Center (LHRC) is specifically and uniquely concerned with the health and well-being of lesbians, bisexual women, transgender individuals, and their families, and with the health care available to them.
    What is the Mission Statement of LHRC?
    The mission of the LHRC is to enhance clinical practice and inform policy about the health care needs of and delivery of services to lesbians, bisexual women, and transgender individuals through a program of research, postgraduate education and training, and public service through education.
    What are the goals of LHRC?
    A principal goal of the Center is to serve as an ongoing forum for bringing together health care researchers and concerned members of the lesbian, bisexual women’s, and transgender communities.
    How does lesbian health differ from women’s health in general?
    The health concerns of lesbians are known to differ from those of heterosexual women in several key areas.  While some studies have already addresses these, additional research is needed:
    * Access to health care without fear of stigmatization
    * Access to abortion and family planning care
    * Substance abuse
    * Depression / mental health
    * Stress / family acceptance
    * Sexually transmitted diseases
    * Body Mass Index (BMI) education
    * Transgender health-related care and information

    Why is study of lesbian health needed?

    Access to non-judgmental health care in a safe and comfortable setting is a significant barrier faced by lesbians.  Lesbians are known to face particular challenges in areas including parenting, breast health, frequency of care, body mass, substance abuse, and family support systems for elders and others.
    Why is lesbian health research needed?
    The health care status and needs of lesbians, bisexual women, and transgendered individuals remain largely unstudied by researchers of  women’s health and aging. As a consequence, little research-based information exists to direct the practices of health care providers that serve these populations, and the knowledge and skills necessary to adequately serve them are lacking.

    In 1999, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) published its landmark report, Lesbian Health:Current Assessment and Directions for the Future. The report indicated several important reasons for directing attention to lesbian health issues:

    “To gain knowledge to improve the health status and health care of lesbians.Lesbians share many health risks and experiences in the health care system with women in general. For lesbians' health care to be both cost-effective and appropriate, the scope of their health problems must be better understood. Knowledge of areas in which the health of lesbians differs from that of other women may provide insights to improve the health of all women.

    To confirm beliefs and to counter misconceptions about the health risks of lesbians. In the face of little empirical information, there are numerous beliefs, myths, and misconceptions about the health risks of lesbians that can affect their health outcomes. These beliefs are often shared both by health care providers and by lesbians themselves. Some of these beliefs may be true; others are not. These beliefs include perceptions that lesbians do not need regular Pap tests or routine gynecological care, that they do not contract HIV/AIDS, and that there is an epidemic of breast cancer in the lesbian community.

    To identify health conditions for which lesbians are at risk or tend to be at greater risk than heterosexual women or women in general. A large body of epidemiological research has identified factors that place people at risk for health and mental health problems, with gender differences existing for many of these risk factors. However, because information about subjects' sexual preferences has not been collected in these studies, it is not possible to determine whether the lesbians who presumably are included in the samples differed from or were like other women with respect to these risk factors. In fact, some factors assumed to place women at risk for or to protect them against health disorders might not be present at the same levels or operate in the same ways for lesbians. In addition to facing many of the same stressors as heterosexual women, women who self-identify as lesbian may also experience stressors not commonly faced by heterosexual women, such as "stigmatization" both within and outside the health care setting. It is important to identify and understand those factors that are unique to lesbians and their impact on health”.

    Solarz, A (Ed.), 1999. Lesbian Health: Current Assessment and Directions for the Future. New York: NAP. Executive Summary.

    What types of topics or health issues does LHRC research address?
    Among those addressed in on-going or future studies are the following: access to health care, aging, breast cancer incidence and treatment, coming out process, HIV transmission, complementary therapies, cultural effects of stigmatization, depression, parenting and family planning, family acceptance, marginalization of lesbians of color, and transgender health needs.
    How does LHRC conduct research and address its goals?
    Drawing upon the research skills and experiences of a multidisciplinary group of UCSF faculty members and other nationally recognized scholars from across the United States, the Center’s work reflects a broad vision of health, illness, and wellness, and is committed to forging strong collaborations with community groups.
    How does LHRC evaluate its programs and services?
    LHRC uses both formal and informal means to attain feedback and evaluation.  Tracking of contacts and inquiries include those by telephone, e-mail, web site, regular mail and appointments. Requests for information and referral are received regularly.  Participants in programs including conferences and seminars complete formal evaluation forms.
    Who founded LHRC?
    LHRC was founded by current co-director Suzanne Dibble, DNSc, RN and Dixie Horning, Executive Director of the UCSF National Center for Excellence in Women’s Health.
    Where is LHRC located?
    LHRC is located within the Institute for Health & Aging (IHA), School of Nursing, University of California, San Francisco, and advances directly the Institute’s goals of serving women across the life span, and providing research data for making public policy decisions, improving public education, and facilitating community interventions.  LHRC is also affiliated with the UCSF National Center of Excellence (CoE) in Women’s Health and is a collaborative partner of the UCSF Center for Gender Equity (CGE).
    How does UCSF support LHRC?
    LHRC is an official center of the university which provides facility space and administrative over site.  UCSF does not provide funding for staff of LHRC or for research studies and the educational services that LHRC provides.
    What are the major programs of LHRC?
    The Center sponsors an interactive web site http://www.lesbianhealthinfo.org, an annual conference, information and referral service, Community Health Talks, and on-going co-sponsored projects.
    What is the LHRC web site and what does it provide?
    LHRC’s web site, http://www.lesbianhealthinfo.org, includes information about LBTQ health in specialized sections for the general audience, health care providers, researchers and others.  The site also includes reports from conferences and events, articles, links to related sites, news releases, contact information and how to support the work of LHRC.
    What is the annual conference hosted by LHRC?
    The Center co-sponsors and hosts the annual Lesbian Health Research Conference each year.  The conference brings together interested members of the public and lesbian community, health care providers, practitioners, researchers and community leaders for a one-day conference addressing selected topics in LBT health. 
    What types of periodic events does LHRC conduct?
    LHRC hosts workshops and presentations in conjunction with conferences and meetings of health-related organizations and community groups.  Topics are tailored to the needs and interest of the particular audience.  Among these have been those co-sponsored with the American Psychological Association, Gay & Lesbian Medical Association, San Francisco LGBT Community Center, Bay Area Community of Women and numerous others.
    What is LHRC’s commitment to public service?
    LHRC is committed to serving the public interest by disseminating information about lesbian health issues to the public, the press, community leaders, activists and the diverse lesbian communities of the San Francisco Bay Area, throughout the US and in other nations. LHRC is known nationally as a resource for information and services about lesbian health.

    What is a Lesbian?
    A lesbian is one of the oldest terms to describe a woman who forms her primary loving and sexual relationships with other women; a woman whose sexual orientation is to people of the same sex. In general, sexual orientation is most often described as including behavioral, affective (i.e., desire or attraction), and cognitive (i.e., identity) dimensions that occur along continua (Laumann et al., 1994). A woman may have sex with another woman but not identify as a lesbian or a woman may not have sex with anyone, but identify as a lesbian. There is also a generational difference in terms with younger women whose sexual orientation is to people of the same sex calling themselves “queer” and older women reporting that they are “gay women”. Lesbians are commonly grouped with gay men, bisexual men and women, and transgender people, and those groups are then collectively described as a single “LGBT” or “GLBT” population.

    Because the census does not ask sexual orientation as a demographic category, the number of lesbians in the United States is unknown. Estimates depend on how you define the term. If you only define the term as women whose only sexual partners in her lifetime were other women, then you would miss approximately 74% of women who identify as lesbians (Dibble, et al, 2004). Using only those who define themselves as lesbian (1.4% from Laumann et al., 1994) and the estimate that there are approximately 149,117,996 females in the United States as of July 2004, one can conclude that there are over 2 million lesbians (2,087,652) in the United States today. The accuracy of this conclusion is probably doubtful, but it gives us a place to start. The United States Census does count same-sex couples residing together, although in an oblique way: The form asks the sex and relationship to the "main householder." Using this process, approximately 320,000 same sex female couples were counted. Less than 1% of counties in the nation counted no same-sex couples in the most recent census.

    Laumann EO, Gagnon JH, Michael RT, & Michaels S (1994). The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Dibble, S, Roberts, S, & Nussey, B (2004). Comparing breast cancer risk between lesbians and their heterosexual sisters. Women’s Health Issues, 14(2), 60-68.

    What is the contact information for LHRC?
    Lesbian Health Research Center
    University of California, San Francisco
    Laurel Heights Campus
    3333 California Street, Suite 340
    San Francisco, CA 94118
    E-mail: lhrc@ucsf.edu
    Phone: 415-502-5209
    Fax: 415-502-5208


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