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The Surgeon General's Call to Action to Promote Sexual Health and Responsible Sexual Behavior

July 9, 2001

II. The Public Health Approach

Use of a public health approach is requisite to promoting sexual health and responsible sexual behavior. This approach has four central components: (1) identifying the problem; (2) identifying risk and protective factors; (3) developing and testing interventions; and (4) implementing, and further evaluating, those interventions that have demonstrated effectiveness. In the present case, public health responds to the problem -- sexually transmitted diseases, unintended pregnancies, and sexual violence -- by asking what is known about its distribution and rates, what factors can be modified, if those modifications are acceptable to the community, and if they are likely to address the problem. Such approaches can range from provision of information about responsible sexuality and interventions designed to promote healthy behavior -- such as sexuality education that starts from within the family, where educated and informed adults can also serve as positive role models -- to developing vaccines against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and AIDS, and to making sexual health care more available and accessible. Additionally, public health focuses on involving communities in their own health and tailoring health promotion programs to the needs and cultures of the communities involved. Because sexuality is one of the human attributes most endowed with meaning and symbolism, it is of particular importance that addressing sexual health issues involve community wide discussion, consultation, and implementation.

This Call to Action provides an evidence-based foundation for developing a public health approach to sexual health and responsible sexual behavior. It identifies the problems and then discusses risk and protective factors. Numerous intervention models that have been evaluated and shown to be effective, as well as some that are promising but not yet adequately evaluated, are also presented. The last step, implementation of effective interventions, will depend heavily on individual communities and their members.





  
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This article was provided by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
 

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