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Friday, September 19, 2008

Euro Sexy!

Day two (three including the pre-conference workshop!) from the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals in Washington, DC. So...I'm going to admit that I slept in this morning and missed the first couple of plenary sessions. Come on! I was still adjusting to being on the East Coast and had only slept four hours each night before. Jeez. What I did see today was pretty amazing stuff. Can you believe that Europeans consider sexuality a health issue rather than a moral issue? What about those wacky Europeans thinking that sexuality is part of an over all well being for humans throughout the lifespan, including during adolescence? Well...I'll fill you in on how out of control things have gotten across the pond and tell you about the rest of my day after the jump.

As most of us know, Western European countries have very low teen birth and abortion rates, especially when compared to those of the United States where our rates are closer to those of developing countries where there is a lack of reproductive health care and services, while the age of first sexual experience and number of teens who have sex is about the same for the U.S. and European countries. So, what's the deal? It seems that after WWII many European nations were experiencing high unintended pregnancy rates and high rates of sexually transmitted infections (sound familiar) and the governments of those countries decided to do something about it. They focused on sexuality as a health issue and worked to improve the sexual health of their citizens by integrating high quality sexuality education into school programs, providing free or low cost sexual and reproductive health services, and providing sexual counseling. They rarely discuss abstinence and focus on responsibility.

BTW, it was mentioned that in Finland 80% of girls and 64% of boys fourteen years of age could correctly state that emergency contraception must be used within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse for it to be effective. I wonder how many American adults could answer that question. Also, only 4% of teachers stated that they were uncomfortable talking to students about sexuality while a whopping 80% said that they were not uncomfortable talking about sexuality to their students. I wonder if the fact that most teachers who teach sexuality in most European nations have received adequate training in sexuality has anything to do with it.

That was only one session. I saw some others. Mostly very medical and not that interesting for me and one that was about counseling patients about smoking, dietary habits, physical activity, and alcohol risks. Seriously, there was only a mere mention about sexual health. I did see a great presentation by Dr. David Grimes on using vignettes to teach providers on counseling patients about contraceptive choices. His style was a wonderful illustration of the importance of using humor and focusing on the positive when presenting/teaching about sexuality and sexual health. My favorite example by Dr. Grimes...instead of amenorrhea (which scares the bejeezus out of some women because it sounds scary and makes them think that not menstruating is bad, bad, bad) he prefers to use the phrase menstrual free. Menstrual free...I'm not a woman but I think that sounds nice. More tomorrow.

BTW, the slides from all of the presentations are available on the ARHP website. visit www.arhp.org


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