Nearly two decades. That’s how long it can take for evidence-based findings to translate into real-world, on-the-ground practices.
That’s two decades too long for gay, bi, trans, Two-Spirit and queer (GBT2Q) men – many of whom need more immediate supports and services, especially when it comes to their health.
“From HIV and sexual health to suicide and mental health, we can’t wait around for the traditional research process to finally take an interest,” said Dr. Kiffer Card, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Victoria who specializes in the structural drivers of health inequity. “We have to be out there doing the work ourselves.”
That’s precisely what a new tool created by Dr. Card, in partnership with the Community-Based Research Centre (CBRC), intends to empower.
The tool – an online platform called Our Stats – takes data from Canada’s largest and longest running GBT2Q health survey, Sex Now, and allows users to easily customize that data by standard variables like age, location, race and income, but also filters more unique to the community, like PrEP use, HIV status and whether or not someone is “out,” among many others.
“One of the things that’s so powerful about Our Stats is that it allows for basic analysis rather than just providing descriptive stats, making it very easy for people who don’t have a research background to explore relationships between different variables – like mental health outcomes by age, access to a primary care provider by newcomer status, or PrEP uptake by bisexual folks,” continued Dr. Card. “And those are just a handful of possible combinations.”
Unlike the traditional pipeline of research – which involves publications, conference presentations and other academic gatekeepers – Our Stats democratizes the seminal source of statistics on GBT2Q men in Canada, building on CBRC’s principles of accessible data and knowledge sharing.
“Our goal was to skip the middleman of the researcher and have data be ready and useable by members of the community from which it was collected.”
Community groups and advocates could leverage Our Stats in several ways. A group concerned about the rates of intimate partner violence in same-sex relationships, for instance, could search by that variable and see the prevalence in Canada – using that stat as evidence to apply for funding or inform programming. Our Stats also breaks information down provincially and by health region, where possible, and contains datasets from several years of Sex Now surveys. This allows for some variables, like PrEP use or knowledge of the HIV treatment as prevention approach, to be tracked over time – informing if public campaigns are having an impact.
“Our Stats provides a great data source for the sort of intelligence not every community organization has the capacity, time or resources to collect themselves.”
Our Stats also prevents anyone from being singled out by their information. For instance, any combination of variables that produces less than 10 results will not appear. This prevents a GBT2Q person in a small community with only a handful of queer people from being specifically identified.
Our Stats has also been updated with data from Sex Now 2020 – providing a unique look at how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted GBT2Q communities. The more data that is added to Our Stats, the more informative and powerful the tool will become, said Dr. Card.
“As far as gay men’s health, Our Stats is certainly at the forefront of data visualizations and data democratizations – but we are finding ways to make it more advanced and use it to teach young GBT2Q folks how to analyse data and calculate statistics.”
To support these efforts, CBRC is creating tutorials, Q&As and other Our Stats training materials through a grant from the federal Women and Gender Equality (WAGE) LGBT2Q community capacity building fund. Contact Ben Klassen, CBRC Research Manager, for more information on these resources.