Did you know that the teen gonorrhea rate in the US is over 74 times higher than in France? I know, its shocking! That juicy tidbit is from a factsheet produced by Healthy Teen Network, which you can find in IssueLab’s April/May CloseUp on Sex ed and abstinence programs.

A quick review of the research in this CloseUp is a good reminder that different populations have unique characteristics and educational needs. Sure, boys are different than girls, but also, LGBTQ Teens face different questions than straight teens and recent immigrants face different obstacles than their US-born counterparts. An Advocates for Youth IssueBrief “Adolescent Sexual Health and the Dynamics of Oppression” reminds us of the importance for culturally specific programs and gives examples, like Circle of Sistahs for women of color and Oshki-bug for American Indians.

Research on sex ed programs is also very useful for identifying underserved populations and novel approaches. Take for instance the discussion of pregnancy prevention for teenage girls. The Center for Law and Social Policy, CLASP, reports the shocking statistic that in 1998, one out of every five teen births are to girls who have already had at least one child and recommends that sex ed programs pay more attention to this population. Another interesting CLASP work focuses on youth employment programs as an effective prevention method and looks at existing models. Research that targets a specific demographic can be utilized to grab important lessons, not just sweeping generalizations that advocate for one side or the other, but concrete facts that can be applied to other programs. For example, the ChildTrends Brief on Condom Use Among Teen Males might be useful to a private boys school considering their options for a sex ed curriculum. They might be reassured and slightly surprised, as I was, that boys with formal sex education of any kind, even if the message was abstinence until marriage,are more likely to use condoms. This same school might next take a look at Cinncinati Childrens Hospitals “Postponing Sexual Involvement Evaluations” to get an idea of an abstinence based program and then read the very different piece “Ignorance Only: HIV/AIDS, Human Rights And Federally Funded Abstinence-Only Programs in the United States” by Human Rights Watch.

It’s easy to see how viewing a diverse body of research can lead to important connections and comparisons that may not have been made otherwise. This is where IssueLab steps in, aggregating work in one place to increase both accessibility and visibility for this important topic and appealing to a wide range of perspectives.