In this inaugural blog of a 3-part series on Community Solutions’ commitment to adolescent sexual health, I will be highlighting the work of the Collaborative for Comprehensive School Age Health.
Did you know, reviews of published evaluations on sexual health education have consistently found that comprehensive sexual health education does not: encourage teens to start having sexual intercourse, increase the frequency with which teens have intercourse, or increase the number of sexual partners teens have? Did you know that the same evaluations have found that these programs do: delay the onset of intercourse, reduce the frequency of intercourse, reduce the number of sexual partners, and increase condom and contraceptive use? Additionally, national surveys of adults[i] demonstrate that 93 percent of parents of junior high school students and 91 percent of parents of high school students believe it is very or somewhat important to have sexual health education as part of the school curriculum. So, how is Northeast Ohio supporting comprehensive sexual health education?
The History of the Collaborative for Comprehensive School Age Health
In 2005, The Gund Foundation convened a group of local organizations to identify entities committed to comprehensive, medically accurate, age-appropriate, evidence based and inclusive sexual health education and services and to catalyze support for local and state policies and programs promoting a comprehensive sexuality education philosophy. What they found was: many of the organizations providing adolescent sexual health education and services did not know about the other local organizations doing similar work and non-evidence based, abstinence-only until marriage curriculum was being supported in some local school districts with state Wellness Block Grant funds. Fast forward to 2017, and the group has grown into a coalition of over 25 public and private organizations and has officially been the Collaborative for Comprehensive School Age Health (the Collaborative) for over ten years. While many of you may know about the Collaborative, you may not know that, for the past seven years the Collaborative has been housed here at The Center for Community Solutions. One of Community Solutions’ 2016-2018 policy priorities is adolescent reproductive health education. We believe in the importance of access to medically accurate, age and culturally appropriate reproductive health education and services.
The Collaborative Now
In 2016, Collaborative members were surveyed and one of the themes was a desire to revisit our mission and goals and to be more proactive in advocacy. So, we organized a strategic planning session facilitated by staff from the national organization, Advocates for Youth, in March 2017. An energized and engaged group of 22 Collaborative members came together to remember our successes, brainstorm about the possibilities, and begin planning for action. While sharing our successes, members highlighted that the Collaborative has supported organizations in securing grants such as the Department of Adolescent Sexual Health grant that Cleveland Metropolitan School District was awarded. The grant allows CMSD to implement comprehensive sexual health education curricula in kindergarten through 12th grades, provides resources to train staff, and has assisted in the increase of safe spaces for LGBTQ students. The Cuyahoga County Board of Health is a recipient of the Teen Pregnancy Prevention grant and cited the Collaborative as a catalyst for applying for and securing the grant. In addition, the Collaborative created a toolkit to support parents and other community members interested in advocating for comprehensive sexual health education within their school districts. During the strategic planning session, members broke out into groups to begin to think about what we would like to tackle moving forward. We were told to dream without limits and then organize our ideas based on what we would like to accomplish no matter how difficult, and what we thought could be accomplished in the next 5 years. The common thread throughout our “strategic dreaming” was increasing access to services, continuing to ensure that as many young people as possible are receiving comprehensive, medically accurate, age-appropriate, evidence-based and inclusive sexual health education, and providing the needed resources and assistance to organizations and schools providing those services and education.
Look out for the next blog, where I will discuss what it really means for sexual health education to be comprehensive, medically accurate, age-appropriate, evidence informed and inclusive. While you’re waiting, check out the Collaborative’s website for more information.