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Elbert Almazan has always had an interest in learning more about and helping LGBTQ communities, especially when it comes to well-being and health. As an undergraduate student, he saw very little research in those areas. Now as a professor of sociology at Central Michigan University, Almazan is leading research in this area to lift up the communities.
"Overall, we don't know enough about the health of this community," Almazan said. "Through this research, I'm hoping to set the foundation for more advocacy to improve the health and well-being of LGBTQ populations."
One of the biggest barriers to LGBTQ research is the number of people in the studies, especially LGBTQ people of color, Almazan explained. To overcome that, he is taking an approach that utilizes ongoing survey research conducted over a number of years rather than focusing on one.
Almazan is reviewing and analyzing data collected from 2013-19 by the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services through its National Health Interview Survey. The first year the survey included a question about sexual orientation was 2013. Collectively, those seven years provide a statistically significant sample size of LGBTQ people relative to the U.S. population.
Through the analysis, Almazan found many patterns between sexual orientation and health-related issues. He found that lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults reporting higher rates of psychological distress compared to heterosexual adults in Black and white populations.
In addition, Almazan found greater risk for sleep problems for lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults in Black, Latinx, white, and Asian and Pacific Islander populations than heterosexual adults.
"The growth of the research has been tremendous," Almazan said. "But there's still a lot of work to be done."
In addition to his trailblazing research related to the LGBTQ community, Almazan was appointed to the American Sociological Association's Minority Fellowship Program Advisory Panel. It was a full-circle moment for him, as he was a Minority Fellowship Program participant when he was pursuing his doctoral degree.
"The program helped me connect with other minority scholars," Almazan said. "It benefited me personally and professionally, and to be able to help provide that kind of impact for others is something I look forward to."
In addition to the panel appointment, Almazan recently was elected to be the incoming chair of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work at CMU, a position he will start in fall 2021.