In Brief: Rationale for Exemplary Sexual Health Education (ESHE)
Schools are vital partners in helping young people learn how to take responsibility for their health and adopt lifetime health-enhancing attitudes and behaviors. Health education—integral to the primary mission of schools—provides young people with the knowledge and skills they need to become successful learners and healthy and productive adults. Increasing the number of schools that provide health education on key health problems, such as HIV, other STD, and pregnancy, is a critical objective for improving our nation’s health. Sexual health education programs should —
- Be medically accurate and consistent with scientific evidence.
- Be tailored to students’ needs and the contexts and educational practices of communities.
- Use effective classroom instructional methods.
- Allow students to develop and demonstrate developmentally appropriate sexual health-related knowledge, attitudes, skills, and practices.
Independent reviews of the scientific evidence show that well-designed and well-implemented HIV/STD prevention programs are effective in decreasing sexual risk behaviors among youth.
Specific outcomes include —
- Delaying first sexual intercourse.
- Reducing the number of sex partners.
- Decreasing the number of times students have unprotected sex.
- Increasing condom use.
Additionally, HIV/STD prevention programs —
- Were not shown to hasten initiation of sexual intercourse among adolescents.
- Can be cost-effective.
Further information on the rationale for exemplary sexual health education, including a comprehensive summary (with text references and related FOA definitions) is available at ESHE Rationale [pdf 388K].
- Adolescent and School Health
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