Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Wednesday announced new efforts to collect health data on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) populations.

“Health disparities have persistent and costly affects for minority communities, and the whole country,” Sebelius said in a statement. “Today we are taking critical steps toward ensuring the collection of useful national data on minority groups, including for the first time, LGBT populations. The data we will eventually collect in these efforts will serve as powerful tools and help us in our fight to end health disparities.”

The HHS will integrate questions on sexual orientation into national data collection efforts by 2013 and begin a process to collect information on gender identity. The agency's plan includes the testing of questions on sexual orientation to potentially be incorporated into the National Health Interview Survey, the agency said.

“The first step is to make sure we are asking the right questions,” Sebelius said. “Sound data collection takes careful planning to ensure that accurate and actionable data is being recorded.”

The data is expected to help federal agencies reduce health disparities.

“These new data standards, once finalized, will help us target our research and tailor stronger solutions for underserved and minority communities,” said Dr. Garth Graham, HHS Director for the Office of Minority Health.