Pro-Prevention Sexual Health

If you have attended many sporting events,  you have likely seen the athletes warming up prior to the game. They do this to prevent potential injuries. No one argues whether this is unnecessary or good because, of course, keeping players healthy and safe should be a priority.

Teaching pro-prevention sexual health is the same. The goal is to take steps to prevent unintended consequences or outcomes that could be harmful to one’s health and well-being. When people realize sexual health education helps protect young people from preventable outcomes, it makes perfect sense. However, some people don’t know what a pro-prevention program looks like, so we’re going to review a few pro-prevention teaching ideas, why they are needed, and how effective these programs can be.

Unintended outcomes due to teen sexual activity might include pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and unexpected or unwanted emotions. One way to prevent these unintended outcomes is through medically accurate and age appropriate education. Pro-prevention sexual health education includes learning about the biological changes, emotional influences, and social pressures that occur during adolescent development. The goal of sexual health education programs offered by Teen emPower! is to provide youth with accurate, unbiased information they can use to make healthy decisions for their future. They need to learn about their bodies and be able to protect themselves from unintended outcomes so they are prepared if/when they make the decision to become sexually active.

If understanding the fundamentals of a sport and having access to protective equipment is important to the well being of athletes — then understanding the fundamentals of sexual health and having access to protective equipment helps the well-being of young people, too.

Everyone needs this information, especially adolescents. In 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported the percentage of unintended pregnancies was 45% overall, with 75% of pregnancies being unintended among teens aged 15-19 years. In 2018, the CDC estimated 1 in 5 Americans age 15 and older had an STI. These two statistics demonstrate a need in our community that is not fully being met. Unintended teen pregnancies can cause lower graduation rates, bring financial hardship, and create emotional distress. And although some STIs can be cured, others can have life-long implications. 

Pro-prevention education is a key to positively impacting our youth, and Teen emPower! is a champion for that change in Central Oklahoma. Colorado has been a leader in the United States for implementing pro-prevention programs and guess what? It’s working. Although the state does not require sexual health education to be taught in schools, it does require sexual health education to be comprehensive, inclusive, and to cover consent when taught. Conversely, states that require abstinence-only education in schools typically see higher STI rates in their communities.

Let’s take it back to sports for a moment. When a gymnast prepares a new skill, a spotter should be present to prevent a harmful fall. Our programs and educators are like the spotter. They provide trusted adults to teach topics such as understanding reproductive anatomy, abstinence as a sure way to avoid unintended outcomes (when used properly), the characteristics of healthy relationships, and how to remain as safe as possible when engaging in sexual activity. With the right spotter in place, an athlete will eventually be able to recognize the safest moves on their own, as will the adolescents who receive effective sexual health education.

A sexual health education program, specifically one with a pro-prevention focus, empowers individuals to take control of their lives and stay healthy. While there are organizations promoting pro-prevention education in other states, Teen emPower! provides this effective and much-needed type of sexual health education right here in Oklahoma. And we do so proudly without judgment or shame.

We invite you to “suit up” and join our pro-prevention team! If you are interested in supporting our organization, you can find us on Facebook, Instagram, and twitter. Our website can be used to further explore our program or make a donation. With your support, we can run the right plays and tackle unintended sexual health outcomes.