Background: Existing messages relating to sexual health (SH) are aimed primarily at professional audiences and often disease-focused. To encourage the public to take action around SH and to promote open dialogue, a positive and holistic message framework was needed. The National Coalition for Sexual Health (NCSH) created draft messages, which were tested with the general public to determine clarity, relevance, appeal, and importance.
Methods: Draft messages in the following domains of SH were developed after review of extant literature and interviews with sexual health experts: benefits, core action steps, and a consumer-friendly definition. Fifty draft messages were refined by NCSH members via a Delphi-like process and tested in group discussions (N=33) segmented by sex, age and sexual orientation, and through an online survey (N=268) with individuals representing a regional cross-section of the adult U.S. population drawn from a national consumer panel database of over three million individuals.
Results: Key benefits of good SH identified by respondents included having positive relationships, feeling good about one’s self and having peace of mind, and having a healthy body. Key action steps, which were verified and ranked, included valuing who you are and deciding what’s right for you, building positive relationships, and choosing partners who treat you well. Key challenges to achieving good SH included building positive relationships, choosing partners who treat you well, and valuing one’s self. Overall, tested messages were received positively by men and women, and across different demographic segments. Differences occurred primarily between men and women. Younger participants were more likely to include concerns about STDs and fertility as priority SH issues.
Conclusions: The NCSH has developed a set of practical, actionable messages that are appealing and effective across multiple segments of the general public.