The National Coalition for Sexual Health (NCSH) aims to improve sexual health and well-being by encouraging productive and sustained conversations about sexual health and promoting high-quality sexual health information and health services. It brings together organizations and individuals who share a commitment not just to advancing sexual health, but also to improving the overall health of the United States. Originally established in 2012, the NCSH is now managed by Altarum Institute as part of its Center for Reproductive and Sexual Health.
According to the NCSH, “Being sexually healthy means being able to enjoy a healthier body, a satisfying sexual life, positive relationships, and peace of mind.”
Members of the Coalition work together to achieve the following goals:
- Promote awareness and acceptance of sexual health as a core element of overall health and well-being across the life span.
- Encourage and normalize open dialogue about sexual health between partners, between parents and children, between health care providers and patients, and within communities.
- Empower individuals to protect and enhance their own personal sexual health and well-being while respecting the health and decisions of others.
- Encourage a wide variety of organizations to embrace positive and effective approaches to sexual health and well-being, based on the best available science.
- Encourage and enable health care providers and patients to have conversations about sexual health and to utilize evidence-based sexual health services.
The NCSH provides a unique opportunity for organizations, particularly those that focus on specific health issues or target populations, to come together under a broader framework to improve our nation’s sexual health. The NCSH’s work focuses on two areas: communications and health care. Through the Communications Action Group and the Health Care Action Group, the NCSH is undertaking a variety of activities to start conversations about sexual health and develop and promote high-quality sexual health information and services.
Take Charge of Your Sexual Health: What you need to know about preventive services
The NCSH developed this guide to address the lack of patient education materials that focused on sexual health broadly. Take Charge of Your Sexual Health: What you need to know about preventive services aims to (1) educate men and woman of all ages about sexual health and the preventive services they need, (2) empower them to take control of their sexual health, (3) motivate them to seek out necessary services, and (4) help them communicate with a provider about issues affecting their sexual health.
The guide was pre-tested with the public. An accompanying microsite was created to make the content easily accessible to the public. The NCSH worked with leading Hispanic health organizations to culturally adapt and translate the guide and microsite into Spanish, which will be released in early 2017.
Helping Health Care Providers Address Sexual Health
The NCSH developed Sexual Health and Your Patients: A Provider’s Guide to help primary care providers integrate sexual health conversations and preventive services into routine visits with adolescents and adults. It contains the following sections:
- How to Discuss Sexual Health
- Asking Essential Sexual Health Questions
- Delivering Recommended Preventive Sexual Health Services
- Responding to Your Patients’ Questions
- Information about Recommended Screening Tests
- Where to Learn More
It is intended as a companion guide to Take Charge of Your Sexual Health and will help to prepare primary care providers to provide essential sexual health services to newly activated and informed consumers. The guide was focus group-tested with primary care providers.
Sexual Health Message Frameworks for the Public and Media
To motivate members of the public to protect and improve their sexual health, the NCSH decided that a positive message framework was needed. The NCSH developed and tested more than 50 unique messages with more than 300 people across the life span. Messages were tested for appeal, clarity, relevance, and motivational power by using qualitative and quantitative methods. Based on the results, the NCSH selected a definition and created a series of message frameworks, which include a definition of sexual health, the benefits of good sexual health, and the five key action steps to good sexual health.
To help NCSH members communicate effectively with the media about the importance of sexual health and to encourage media coverage, a media message box was created. The one-page message box defines the problem, solution, benefits, and call-to-action and is supported by proof points that contain data and detailed messages.
Many Americans were not taking advantage of a wide range of recommended preventive sexual health services that could protect and improve their sexual health and even save their lives, despite coverage under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. In May 2014, the NCSH launched a national media initiative that included message development, trained spokespeople, personalized outreach to national media, and materials to promote Take Charge of Your Sexual Health.
The campaign’s goals were to secure media coverage of the new guide and website among leading national and local media that reach the general public and to encourage NCSH members to promote the guide and website to their audiences. Overall, media outreach resulted in stories by 168 media outlets, generating an estimated 176 million audience impressions.
In June 2015, NCSH launched a second campaign to increase promotion of these recommended preventive sexual health services to the African-American community, using a targeted message strategy, relevant spokespeople, and an extensive list of African-American media outlets.
The NCSH also conducts ongoing proactive and reactive media outreach to place stories, messages, and spokespeople on a wide variety of sexual health topics and to build relationships with key reporters.
Audience Profile on Youth
Drawing from credible, national surveys, the NCSH has produced a profile on the sexual health of youth in the United States. This profile provides a brief demographic overview, trends in relationships and communications, and a summary of sexual health knowledge and behaviors, physical health, and use of sexual health care services.
The Action Steps to Good Sexual Health
The NCSH is developing detailed content to help motivate and equip the public to take five key steps to protect and improve their sexual health:
- Value who you are and decide what is right for you.
- Get smart about your body and protect it.
- Treat your partners well and expect them to treat you well.
- Build positive relationships.
- Make sexual health part of your health care routine.
The content will include the top benefits of taking each step, practical tips and advice, and links to resources. It be made available to the public through a Web-based format.
The NCSH provides members with extensive digital and social media content to help facilitate their sexual health communications. The NCSH’s Quarterly Social Media Campaigns include sample sexual health content that members can use or adapt for their digital and social channels. It is designed to tie core messages and resources of both the Coalition and NCSH members to timely events, occurrences, holidays, or news items. Follow the NCSH on Twitter, and like it on Facebook!
The NCSH also produces a weekly digest, “Sexual Health in the News.” This online digest keeps members up to date on sexual health topics currently trending in the media.
The NCSH holds its annual meeting every September, giving members an opportunity to come together to discuss current issues in the field of sexual health and work on existing NCSH initiatives.