More than a decade of research shows lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) youth throughout North America experience significant health inequities compared to their heterosexual peers, such as depression and suicide, problem substance use, even teen pregnancy. Societal stigma often leads to violence targeted towards LGBTQ youth, or teens who are thought to be LGBTQ, such as homophobic bullying, sexual harassment, discrimination, even physical or sexual assault. Much of this homophobia takes place in school. At the same time, research has documented the positive effects of having a safe and supportive school environment for promoting health; school connectedness has regularly been associated with better health outcomes for young people, even when they face potent stressors as abuse or unstable home life.
What creates a supportive and safe school environment for LGBTQ youth? And can population interventions in the education sector contribute to better health outcomes among these adolescents? Our multidisciplinary, North American team of researchers, with collaborators and knowledge-users from government, community and school districts, includes experts from BC, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia, as well as several regions of the U.S. The entire integrated program of research is guided by an intersectional, gender-sensitive approach to research questions and analyses, to better understand what works best for groups around gender, sexual orientation, culture and context. The results will guide youth- and community-engaged knowledge-to-action strategies to mobilize change in school settings. By working with school districts, education and public health professionals, and youth themselves, we hope to systematically create knowledge that is directly useful for the work they do to foster health-promoting environments in schools for all young people.
- National Inventory of School Interventions to Promote Well-being and School Connectedness among Diverse Minority Groups of Youth
- Canadian Transgender Youth Health Survey
- Project RESPEQT (Research and Education on Supportive and Protective Environments for Queer Teens)
- Vancouver Technical Secondary School Wellness Initiative
The program of research has a number of aims:
1.) Documenting the health inequities experienced by LGBTQ adolescents compared to heterosexual peers in population-based data sources, and where possible, identify assets or protective factors;
2.) Tracking trends in both the health problems, key risk factors (like bullying and other forms of violence), and protective factors, and determining how much changing trends in health issues among LGBTQ youth are explained by changing trends in risk and protective factors;
3.) Testing the long-term effects of homophobic bullying and other stressors on LGBTQ youth health and educational attainment in a national longitudinal survey in the U.S.;
4.) Conducting a national inventory of the different kinds of strategies schools and school districts use to reduce homophobia or increase school connectedness among LGBTQ youth and other groups;
5.) Linking school programs with school-based population data where possible, to identify which combinations of strategies are associated with lower rates of harassment, higher school connectedness, or reduced health problems for LGBTQ youth;
6.) Conducting community-based participatory evaluations of interventions and strategies to reduce homophobia, to understand how schools decide which strategies to choose, what outcomes they expect from the different interventions they are using, and whether these various school- and community-based strategies actually have the effects expected by those using them.