Testimony of Charlotte Patterson, PhD Department of Psychology University of Virginia
On behalf of the American Psychological Association on Lesbian Health Research before the Committee on Lesbian Health Research Priorities Institute of Medicine National Academy of Sciences October 6, 1997

Chairwoman Burgess and the Members of the Committee

The American Psychological Association (APA) is pleased to have the opportunity to provide testimony on Lesbian Health Research Priorities on behalf of its membership — more than 151,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through APA's divisions in 50 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 58 state, territorial and Canadian provincial psychological associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting human welfare. APA is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world's largest association of psychologists.

We would like to take this opportunity to express our appreciation to the National Institutes of Health Office of Research on Women's Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Office of Women's Health for funding the workshop study on lesbian health research being conducted by the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine.

In our testimony we will briefly address each of the three goals of the Committee, as identified in Dr. Solarz's letter of August 6:

  • assess the strength of the science base regarding the health problems of lesbians;

  • review methodological issues pertinent to lesbian health research;

  • suggest possible areas for future research.

Contextual Factors as a Guiding Principle

Before addressing the specific goals, however, we first would like to draw the Committee's attention to APA's Research Agenda for Psychosocial and Behavioral Factors in Women's Health. We believe this report will be helpful to the Committee. In particular we want to reiterate a guiding principle of that report for understanding women's health issues. This guiding principle states that cross-cutting contextual factors must be considered in designing, implementing, and interpreting research. These contextual factors include:

  • Relationships: How does being in relationships with others affect women's health status, behaviors and attitudes? In turn, do health behaviors, attitudes and status affect lesbian and bisexual women's relationships?

  • Ethnicity: How do lesbian and bisexual women's ethnic backgrounds shape their health, health behaviors and attitudes and how do their ethnic backgrounds influence their health options and status?

  • Resources: How do financial and structural resources affect lesbian and bisexual women's health options?

  • Status and power: How do lesbian and bisexual women's social status, work status, and social and economic power intersect with health options and status?

  • Gender expectations: How is health status affected by gender expectations, such as care giving for others who are sick or in need and expectations to serve as an emotional support system for others?

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