Finding the Sweet Spot Between Views and Values in the Delivery of Sexual Health Education
This spotlight was developed by Mallory Gibson, Community Impact Coordinator at Fact Forward, in collaboration with the RHNTC. Fact Forward, a TPP20 Impact and Innovation Network grantee, provides funding to South Carolina organizations that support the implementation of evidence-based reproductive health education.
I heard that faith leaders wanted resources or a program that covers STIs, teen pregnancy, HIV, HPV, etc. They said “Yeah, yeah. All of that.” So then I asked, “Okay, you want youth to have information on all of these topics, but what's stopping you from doing something to educate them about these issues?”
It wasn't a question of whether they do or don’t want youth to learn about these topics. Everyone agrees these topics are important. The question is more around how this happens. It takes a lot of work and effort to get people on board with implementing sexual health education.
Sometimes the barrier is comfort levels. Sometimes it's funding. There are so many different reasons why churches, schools, or community organizations don’t do these things. I was really trying to figure out, “What would you be willing to do? What do you want? What do you see as important?” But also, “What’s it gonna take to make that a reality?”
The church may be a young person’s safe place. The faith leaders said they would like sexual health education for youth but at the same time they want to respect everyone’s views.
So what we’re trying to figure out is the sweet spot between different views and values. To find common ground in the service of youth, so we can move ahead in a way that no one feels disrespected. We want to respect everybody.
Another big challenge is actually getting youth to do things and having the data to show if it is working or not. As someone from a data background, it can be frustrating to not have all the data because if people don’t participate then there’s no data to analyze, which means we can’t use the data to see the impact. We don’t have any control over whether or not people go through a program or do the evaluation activities. And I’ve found that challenge with a lot of youth programs in general—getting youth that want to commit to participate.
And if youth don’t feel it’s “worth it,” they don’t participate. It's a lot of work and commitment. However, if there’s structure and mentoring then it’s more appealing. They have an external person helping guide them along. Mentors help show that they’re participating in something that's important.