Reorienting adolescent sexual and reproductive health research: reflections from an international conference.

January 18th, 2016


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.

Author information

  • 1International Centre for Reproductive Health, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium.
  • 2International Centre for Reproductive Health, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium.
  • 3International Centre for Reproductive Health, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium.
  • 4Guttmacher Institute, New York, USA.
  • 5International Centre for Reproductive Health, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium.
  • 6Department of Family Medicine and Primary Health Care, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium.
  • 7Butterfly Works, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
  • 8African Population and Health Research Center, Nairobi, Kenya.
  • 9Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.
  • 10University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa.
  • 11Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, USA.
  • 12Hunter College and The Graduate Center, CUNY, New York, USA.
  • 13Rutgers & Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands.
  • 14University of Cuenca, Cuenca, Ecuador.
  • 15Sensoa, Antwerp, Belgium.
  • 16Department of Reproductive Health and Research, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland.

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