September 22, 2022
Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) awarded Altarum a grant to continue its leadership of the National Coalition for Sexual Health (NCSH) through 2027. The award allows Altarum to build on its successful collaboration with a highly engaged coalition of over 200 national organizations and experts committed to advancing sexual health and improving the overall health of Americans.
Despite positive trends, such as a decline in new HIV infections, there is room for improvement in sexual health in the United States across many measures. Sexually transmitted infection rates have steadily increased since 2015, condom use is decreasing among youth, rates of sexual and gender-based violence are high, and sexual history taking is absent from many health care provider visits. Factors ranging from social determinants of health to shame surrounding sexuality can undermine essential conversations about safer sex, consent, and health services.
Widespread problems—and aspirations—demand a diverse coalition with the expertise, influence, and understanding to reach millions of Americans. Under Altarum’s leadership, the NCSH has created practical, cutting-edge tools for health care providers and the public, and leveraged the power of both traditional and social media. Since the inception of the NCSH in 2012, Altarum has embraced the positive, comprehensive, whole-person approach espoused by the CDC and other experts.
“Our work is grounded in a benefit-driven, consumer-tested definition we created—‘being sexually healthy means being able to enjoy a healthier body, a satisfying sexual life, positive relationships, and peace of mind,’” says Altarum Reproductive and Sexual Health Program Director Jennifer Rogers. “Making this a reality requires more than individual actions. It means working collaboratively to create a supportive environment that fosters access to high-quality sexual health services and information.”
This definition is key to the success of the NCSH and is reflected throughout its work, which includes a video series showcasing a new approach to comprehensive sexual history-taking aimed at health care providers and an inclusive consumer-focused guide to sexual concerns and pleasure. The coalition has also conducted research with young adults to identify the barriers they face when talking with partners about sexual health which will be used to develop new messaging and tools.
In addition to its focus on reaching priority populations, over the next five years, Altarum will build and maintain the diversity of NCSH membership to ensure all audiences, areas of expertise, and geographic areas are represented. We will also begin work to create a supportive policy environment for comprehensive sexual health through added outreach and education to key decision-makers.
“Mission alignment—that’s why our collaboration with both the CDC and the coalition members has been successful for over a decade,” says Altarum Vice President of Population Health Tara Fowler. “We are dedicated to reaching populations who are underserved by the health care system and disproportionately affected by poor sexual health and are excited to continue this partnership.”