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“They’re messing up our future because we need to learn these things”: a qualitative exploration of sexual health education experiences of Allegheny County adolescents

Gossard, Emma S (2018) “They’re messing up our future because we need to learn these things”: a qualitative exploration of sexual health education experiences of Allegheny County adolescents. Master's Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Introduction: Comprehensive Sex Education is relevant to public health in that it contributes to positive sexual and reproductive health outcomes among adolescents. Pennsylvania schools are not required to provide students with any sex education, though they must provide information about HIV and STDs and are required to stress abstinence. As a formative element of a larger needs assessment, the purpose of this work is to understand the sexual health education experiences and needs of adolescents in Allegheny County, as well as their recommendations for improving sexual health education and services.
Methodology: In this qualitative study, semi-structured focus groups were conducted with eighteen adolescents recruited through community organizations. Focus groups were recorded and transcribed, and data was analyzed for key themes using initial and focused coding methods.
Results: Most adolescents found their sex education to be lacking, and believed that subpar sex education impacts health outcomes. However, participant experiences differed according to the schools they attended. Participants recommended that school-based sex education be improved by covering more topics, using a student-centered framework, and facilitating a school culture of openness. Participants also suggested that schools provide them with condoms and that community organizations increase advertising and outreach to their demographic. Additionally, participants indicated that stigma associated with sexual health impacts the flow of information in schools.
Conclusion: Findings suggest that both school and community organizations can improve the sexual health education and services that they provide to adolescents. Community organizations in particular will use these results to build upon their existing sexual health education programming and services and better serve adolescents in Allegheny County and to advocate for improved state and local sex education policy and implementation.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Gossard, Emma Sesg22@pitt.eduesg22
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairHawk,
Committee MemberEgan,
Committee MemberGoodkind,
Date: 28 June 2018
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 2 April 2018
Approval Date: 28 June 2018
Submission Date: 9 April 2018
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 77
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Public Health > Behavioral and Community Health Sciences
Degree: MPH - Master of Public Health
Thesis Type: Master's Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: sex education, comprehensive sex education, adolescent sex education, adolescent health, sexual health, sexual health education, comprehensive sexual health education, adolescent sexual health
Date Deposited: 28 Jun 2018 19:42
Last Modified: 02 Jul 2018 21:29


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