Supporting Sexual Health Education by CBO-based Youth Development Professionals

Period of Performance: 08/06/2012 - 07/31/2013


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Academic Edge, Inc.
Bloomington, IN 47408
Principal Investigator


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): Significance. In the United States, disproportionately high rates of sexually transmitted infection (STI) and unplanned pregnancy among adolescents suggest the continuing need for evidence-based sexuality education. Efforts to address sexual health through traditional educational venues, principally schools, play an important role in targeting this recalcitrant problem;however, there remains a substantial gap between current sexual health understanding, current epidemiological outcomes, and targeted objectives. Other emerging venues appear to offer an opportunity to increase delivery of accurate and appropriate sexual health information and educational activities. Moving beyond traditional educational providers, community-based organizations (CBOs) have been identified as venues with significant potential to promote adolescent sexual health. Within CBOs, youth development professionals (YDP) are important sources of sexuality education for adolescents;however, recent research documents a need for systematic training and accessible resources for YDP and indicates that the YDP themselves desire ongoing education and support. CBO-based YDP are called upon to conduct reactive sexual health education-to respond to questions. They also frequently participate in proactive efforts-conducting workshops and outreach. Moreover, they, and their organizations, have little support in doing so. Innovation. To address the unique opportunity afforded by CBO-based YDP, we propose to extend emerging research, conducted by members of our team, by examining roles CBO-based YDP play in sexual health education, counseling, and support. Based on the results of those research efforts, we will develop and validate a CBO implementation toolkit: a wide ranging set of resources to enhance effective CBO implementation of proactive and reactive sexual health education and counseling. The toolkit will address issues from organizational readiness to YDP education to materials and resources for provision to CBO clients and client- parents. Although the effort will make use of innovative media and technologies-including multimedia, interactivity, social networking, and smart phone compatible delivery-the emphasis, and innovation, is the specific health problem and the holistic, educationally and behaviorally sound, integrated, approach to this problem, with technologies as tools to augment adoption and implementation to the extent that the technologies are accessible by CBO's, the YDPs, and their clients, and where supportive of targeted outcomes. Phase I will extend current YDP research by using community-based participatory research methods with a national sample of YDP from a broad range of organizations, design the overall CBO toolkit, develop a subset of these educational and support tools, and test those materials formatively within single-subject usability sessions and in a summative field trial. Phase II will develop the entire suite of materials and conduct a large- scale trial to validate them prior to widespread dissemination. Our proposed effort will: Specific Aim 1. Improve upon what is known about the role of YDP as sexual health educators by examining their information and skills needs, their understanding of evidence-based sexual health for adolescents, and the sexual health program/intervention needs of their organizations (CBOs). Specific Aim 2. Improve sexual health efforts of CBO-based YDP by developing resources to address: a. Reactive Education: Increase YDP efficacy for evidence-based responses to sexual health questions and increase YDP capacity to use behavioral change messages and interventions. b. Proactive Education: Increase frequency, accuracy, and effectiveness of outreach and educational efforts by YDP;increase YDP awareness of selves as sexual health models. c. Organizational Adoption: Enable CBOs, as organizations, to assess readiness, to assess effectiveness, and to develop a systematic approach to providing evidence-based sexual health programming. The proposed research effort will be an important contribution to the understanding of CBO-based YDP sexual health educational efforts and will also lead to the development and validation of innovative educational and performance support tools in an area where none currently exist.