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Vermonters are Healthy

% of high schools that teach key topics related to exemplary sexual health education in a required course

73%2018

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Story Behind the Curve

                                                                                                                     Last Updated: November 2019

                                                                                                                      Author: Division of Maternal and Child Health, Vermont Department of Health

Research has repeatedly found that sex education which provides accurate, complete, and developmentally appropriate information on human sexuality, including risk-reduction strategies and contraception helps young people take steps to protect their health, including delaying sex, using condoms or contraception, and being monogamous. Comprehensive Sex Education "teaches about abstinence as the best method for avoiding STDs and unintended pregnancy, but also teaches about condoms and contraception to reduce the risk of unintended pregnancy and of infection with STDs, including HIV. It also teaches interpersonal and communication skills and helps young people explore their own values, goals, and options."

In Vermont, the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey indicates:

  • 42% of students reported ever having sex.
  • Nearly a third of students have had sexual intercourse with at least one person during the previous 3 months. Current sexual activity has not changed over the past decade.
  • Current sexual activity significantly increases with each grade level, nearly doubling during the first two years of high school, and doubling again between 10th and 12th grade. 
  • Nearly one in ten students (9%) reported having had sexual intercourse with four or more people during their lifetime. Since 2007 and since 2015, the percent of students who have had four or more sexual partners has significantly decreased.
  • Use of moderate or most effective forms of prescription birth control significantly increased since 2013 and between 2015 and 2017.  Overall, half of sexually active students used prescription birth control such as oral pills, an IUD or implant, or a shot, patch, or birth control ring to prevent pregnancy before they had sexual intercourse.
  • Since 2013, the use of prescription birth control, among sexually active students, significantly increased from 44% to 47% in 2015, and to 50% in 2017.  Most notably, use of an IUD or implant has increased by 10% since 2013 (3% vs 6% vs 13%).
  • There is a strong association between type of contraceptive method used and risk of unintended pregnancy. In 2017 half of all sexually active students reported using a most or moderately effective contraception to prevent pregnancy the last time they had sexual intercourse.
  • About two in five (42%) students have had oral sex during their lifetime. The percent of students ever having oral sex has decreased significantly since first asked in 2011 (47%).
  • Among sexually active students, one in five (20%) drank alcohol or used drugs prior to sexual intercourse. The percent of students who used alcohol or drugs prior to their last sexual experience has decreased significantly since 2007 but has not changed in recent years.
  • Among students who were currently sexually active, just over half (56%) used a condom the last time they had sex.  Condom use among sexually active students has significantly decreased over the past decade and continued to decrease between 2015 and 2017.

 

What Works
Strategy
  • Continue to work with partners to ensure that youth have access to comprehensive sex education.
  • Continue to work with partners to ensure that youth have access to comprehensive and confidential sexual and reproductive health services.
Why Is This Important?

This indicator is part of Healthy Vermonters 2020 (the State Health Assessment) that documents the health status of Vermonters at the start of the decade and the population health indicators and goals that will guide the work of public health through 2020. Click here for more information.

Notes on Methodology

This question uses the School Health Profiles Lead Health Educator questionnaire and calculates the percentage of schools that teach all of the following in a required course taught during grades 9, 10, 11, or 12:

  • How to create and sustain healthy and respectful relationships.
  • Communication and negotiation skills related to eliminating or reducing risk for HIV, other STD, and pregnancy.
  • Goal-setting and decision-making skills related to eliminating or reducing risk for HIV, other STD, and pregnancy.
  • The benefits of being sexually abstinent.
  • The importance of limiting the number of sexual partners.
  • The importance of using condoms consistently and correctly.
  • The importance of using a condom at the same time as another form of contraception to prevent both STDs and pregnancy.
  • How to access valid and reliable health information, products, and services related to HIV, other STD, and pregnancy.
  • Preventive care (such as screenings and immunizations) that is necessary to maintain reproductive and sexual health.
  • Influences of family, peers, culture, media, technology and other factors on sexual risk behaviors.
  • Influencing and supporting others to avoid or reduce sexual risk behaviors.

Exemplary Sexual Health Education (ESHE)

Specifically, high school based lead health educators needed to respond “yes” to the following questions,

TQ11. During this school year, did teachers in your school teach each of the following HIV, STD, or pregnancy prevention topics in a required course for students in each of the grade spans below? (Mark yes or no for each topic)

Topic

  • The benefits of being sexually abstinent
  • How to access valid and reliable health information, products, and services related to HIV, other STD, and pregnancy
  • The influences of family, peers, culture, media, technology and other factors on sexual risk behaviors
  • Communication and negotiation skills related to eliminating or reducing risk for HIV, other STD, and pregnancy
  • Goal-setting and decision-making skills related to eliminating or reducing risk for HIV, other STD, and pregnancy
  • Influencing and supporting others to avoid or reduce sexual risk behaviors
  • The importance of using condoms consistently and correctly
  • The importance of using a condom at the same time as another form of contraception to prevent both STDs and pregnancy
  • How to create and sustain healthy and respectful relationships
  • The importance of limiting the number of sexual partners
  • Preventive care (such as screenings and immunizations) that is necessary to maintain reproductive and sexual health




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