CHHS faculty promote sexual health education through current project
- Tuesday, September 13th, 2022
Ms. Angel Parker and Dr. Kristen Brewer are on a mission to empower students to take control of their sexual health through education.
Ms. Parker’s passion for sexual health education began when she was a health educator with Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio informing patients about STIs and contraceptive options. This experience led her to pursue her certification in health education. After completing her MPH from WKU, Angel then took a position as a health educator and school health coordinator with the BRDHD. With this role, Angel was responsible for developing and delivering the sexual health education in the area. This combination of experiences helped her to realize the lack of knowledge and understanding about sexual health and risk reduction among the population.
Similarly, Kristen Brewer was a PhD student in health education and teaching undergraduate introductory personal health courses. While discussing ways to reduce risk and practice safer sex, she consistently noticed discrepancies among student’s knowledge and attitudes based on the type of sexual health education they had in middle and high school. These gaps created an uneven playing field for students who had not received a comprehensive education, as they had little information on how to protect themselves. Seeing this confusion and frustration among her students, Kristen realized they needed this information well before college. This education is needed before students are sexually active, not after.
Ms. Parker and Dr. Brewer’s current project aims to address why these gaps in sexual health education exist. “There is a lot of stigma and discomfort about the topic of sexual health, and one way to help increase education is to better understand how to address those issues,” said Dr. Brewer. “The overall goal of this project is to gain insight and context of student, parent, and educator perceptions and attitudes regarding sexual health education. Although policies may limit certain aspects from being taught in school, data indicate there is a need to address risky youth sexual behavior.”
When looking at sexual health outcomes, in general, Kentucky has a high rate of sexually transmitted infection compared to the national average and a teen birth rate of 31 per 1,000 births among females aged 15-19 (Univ. of Wisconsin Public Institute of Health, 2022). When narrowing data down to Kentucky youth sexual behaviors, the CDC reports of students who reported being sexually active (just under 29% of student respondents), 47% reported not using a condom during their last sexual intercourse, about 75% reported not using birth control pills, and almost 90% reported not being tested for STDs during the 12 months prior to survey (CDC, 2020). These results are not surprising given what Angel and Kristen have seen in their line of work and research.
“When comprehensive education is not provided, we are doing our students a disservice because it leads them to seek information out through alternative means, such their friends, social media, or the internet,” said Ms. Parker. “And we know these are not always the most reliable sources for information. There is a desperate need for better informed, comprehensive, and destigmatized sexual health education and it is their hope that by better understanding, the perceptions and attitudes about these topics, educators can develop targeted sexual health education based on the community’s needs.”