SEXUAL HEALTH RESEARCH

The final three articles provide an overarching context for the field of sexual health. First, Ford et al. provide a broad perspective on how improved training and education of healthcare providers and the general public in human sexuality and sexual health can help address the stigma that often surrounds and impedes public health efforts, especially in the areas of STD and HIV prevention, and thereby improve health outcomes. They emphasize that while patients across the adolescent and adult years are interested in and supportive of their healthcare providers addressing sexual health concerns in the clinical setting, their providers are often reluctant to do so for a variety of reasons, including lack of comfort with the topic and perceived time constraints. sex doll torso The authors posit that a more explicit focus on sexual health through education of providers at various levels (i.e., undergraduate, residency, and practice) and education of the general public could reinforce the importance of sexual health as an integral aspect of overall human health.

Second, as outlined by Ivankovich et al., from a public health perspective, the concept of sexual health has its greatest potential as a health promotion framework that doesn’t seek to replace conventional strategies for the prevention and control of public health problems related to sexual behavior, but rather to support and expand them through an approach that explicitly emphasizes health and well-being. National efforts to address sexual health have been endorsed by WHO and undertaken by an increasing number of nations. As noted previously, for implementation efforts that are currently underway, such as those in SHARP and the Oregon plan, this approach has several potential benefits: the engagement of new and diverse partners; enhanced dialogue about sexual health and responsibility; the potential to reduce stigma, fear, and discrimination; and opportunities to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of clinical care and public health programs.

Finally, former Surgeon General David Satcher provides a valuable historical understanding of national efforts to address the holistic framework of sexual health, with both “The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Sexual Health and Responsible Sexual Behavior” (released by Dr. Satcher during his tenure as Surgeon General) and the recently released National Prevention Strategy (by current Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin) representing important milestones on a long journey. His identification of three key sectors in this journey—youth education, the healthcare system, and faith-based organizations—points to the diversity of partners with an interest in and potential contributions to make toward more effectively addressing sexual health.

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