Sexually transmitted disease rates in Linn and Johnson counties are rising. I encourage parents and educators to consider evidence-based, comprehensive sexual health education for students that would help lower rates.
“Evidence-based” means the program has been proven to effectively show positive changes in students’ sexual behaviors. “Comprehensive” means the program is medically accurate, age-appropriate, theory driven and teaches abstinence (but is not abstinence-only) to help students develop interpersonal and communication skills.
According to the National Sexuality Education Standards, comprehensive programs have been shown to help youth delay the onset of sexual activity, reduce the frequency of sexual activity, reduce the number of sexual partners, and increase condom and contraceptive use. Comparison studies have found comprehensive programs to be more effective than abstinence-only programs.
Many schools provide evidence-based programs, but gaps remain. The Sexual Health Alliance of Linn & Johnson Counties Education Subcommittee conducted a survey of the public high schools to see whether evidence-based sexual health education was being taught. The committee found that sexual health education varies considerably. In some schools, sexual health education is part of a mandatory health class; for others, it is a single stand-alone session or part of an elective health class.
There are many ways parents and individuals can advocate for a comprehensive, evidence-based curriculum. These include knowing the official state and school system policies on sexual health education; learning what their student’s school offers and what training their teachers have had in sexual health education; speaking with administrators; and joining school health education committees and/or participating in school board meetings. Fortunately, our community has many resources and trained professionals at its disposal. We encourage parents and educators to reach out to the SHA at shacoalition.com/ or firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Seth Owens is board president of the Sexual Health Alliance of Linn & Johnson Counties. Comments: email@example.com