Sexual Health

Current Research

Implementing evidence-based best practice criteria in sex and relationship education

Professor Rona Campbell, De Gemma Morgan, and Dr Vanessa Er are heading an NIHR School for Public Health Research project on sex and relationship education (SRE).

The project began on 1st May 2017. Its objectives are: to maximise the chances of our involvement in the government’s forthcoming consultation on statutory SRE; to disseminate our best practice criteria to relevant stakeholders; to conduct a small-scale investigation into preparations for statutory SRE and the extent to which these are evidence-based; and to conduct scoping work for a short film illustrating best practice in SRE.

The researchers explain that there is a need for effective SRE for young people in the UK. New digital technologies and widespread internet access have changed how young people learn about sex and conduct their sexual lives, bringing about new risks, while existing risks (such as sexually transmitted infections) remain relatively high among young people. SRE is regarded as vital for improving young people’s sexual health but provision is variable and relevant government guidance is currently outdated.

The team conducted research to identify factors that make SRE programmes effective, acceptable, sustainable and capable of being faithfully implemented. On the basis of this evidence they developed criteria for best practice in SRE which will be of value to schools, professionals, practitioners, service commissioners and policy makers in the field of SRE. The best practice criteria will enable schools to set high, universal standards for school-based SRE, which is particularly timely given that the government has recently announced its intention to make SRE statutory in all secondary schools by 2019.

A policy briefing was created and widely disseminated. The project is now in its final stage, with the team carrying out a small-scale investigation into preparations for statutory SRE and the extent to which these are evidence-based. Further details are available here on the NIHR SPHR website.


Completed Research

Peer-led Intervention to Promote Chlamydia Testing

Dr Jo Crichton's PhD research investigated approaches for promoting the uptake of chlamydia testing among men and women aged 16-24 in the UK.
The study had two aims:

1) To carry out a systematic review on sources of variation in the prevalence of chlamydia infection among young people.

2)To examine prevalence of chlamydia infection among 17 year olds using data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) cohort.  For more information, please visit the ALSPAC website.

2) To investigate whether peer-led interventions are likely to be an acceptable, feasible and effective means to promote chlamydia testing among young people. This involved qualitative research into the social context of chlamydia testing and communication about sexual health among 16-24 year olds. Dr Crichton took a grounded theory approach to this part of the study.

Views and Experiences of the HPV vaccine

Harriet Fisher's PhD research is exploring the barriers and facilitators to the uptake of the HPV vaccine in Bristol and to consider possible ways to overcome these. 

The study has three components:

  1. To undertake a school-based questionnaire with young women to understand their experience of the HPV vaccine.
  2. To observe the vaccination process to gain understanding of the context and systems used for the vaccination procedure and specific incidents occurring relevant to uptake.
  3. To explore in-depth through interviews the barriers and facilitators to uptake of the HPV vaccine from a range of perspectives (young women, parents/carers, key healthcare professionals and school staff).
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