Improving youth sexual health in British Columbia

In spite of prevention programs that target risky sexual behaviours in youth, many BC teens continue to experience serious health and social problems related to sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unplanned pregnancies. While untreated STIs can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility and increased risk of HIV, early maternal age can result in decreased future educational and employment opportunities for young mothers. As a Scholar, Dr. Jean Shoveller investigated the factors that play a role in the increased incidence of teen pregnancy and STIs among rural and remote BC communities. Now, Dr. Shoveller is working to reduce gaps in public health interventions related to youth sexual health by focusing on policy and program intervention research related to the health and social impacts of STIs and unwanted pregnancies amongst youth. Dr. Shoveller’s research will integrate participatory approaches to research (where youth are directly involved in the planning and implementation of research projects) with an analytical framework that examines how features of youth's social contexts (e.g., gender, place, culture) affect youth's sexual lives. Also, data that illustrate how context affects young people's sexual health will be mapped to reveal how strengths and weaknesses in the health, education and social service systems affect youth's sexual health. This research will provide researchers with new tools that can be used in new and unique participatory research opportunities that actively involve youth in research into this complex and sensitive topic and will provide public health policy makers and program planners with information to help inform decisions regarding improving and promoting youth sexual health.