Reorienting adolescent sexual and reproductive health research: reflections from an international conference
De Meyer, Sara
Kabiru, Caroline W.
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On December 4th 2014, the International Centre for Reproductive Health (ICRH) at Ghent University organized an international conference on adolescent sexual and reproductive health (ASRH) and well-being. This viewpoint highlights two key messages of the conference - 1) ASRH promotion is broadening on different levels and 2) this broadening has important implications for research and interventions – that can guide this research field into the next decade. Adolescent sexuality has long been equated with risk and danger. However, throughout the presentations, it became clear that ASRH and related promotion efforts are broadening on different levels: from risk to well-being, from targeted and individual to comprehensive and structural, from knowledge transfer to innovative tools. However, indicators to measure adolescent sexuality that should accompany this broadening trend, are lacking. While public health related indicators (HIV/STIs, pregnancies) and their behavioral proxies (e.g. condom use, number of partners) are well developed and documented, there is a lack of consensus on indicators for the broader construct of adolescent sexuality, including sexual well-being and aspects of positive sexuality. Furthermore, the debate during the conference clearly indicated that experimental designs may not be the only appropriate study design to measure effectiveness of comprehensive, context-specific and long-term ASRH programmes, and that alternatives need to be identified and applied. Presenters at the conference clearly expressed the need to develop validated tools to measure different sub-constructs of adolescent sexuality and environmental factors. There was a plea to combine (quasi-)experimental effectiveness studies with evaluations of the development and implementation of ASRH promotion initiatives.