The primary mission of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion is to scientifically explore sexual health and behavior in the general U.S. population, as well as unique and understudied segments of society, in order inform the development and delivery of relevant and evidence-based sexual health promotion initiatives and interventions.
The Center for Sexual Health Promotion, based in School or Public Health-Bloomington at Indiana University, was formalized in 2007 by a large private foundation grant for core support and has consistently maintained sponsored research initiatives with competitive funding from multiple institutes within the National Institutes of Health; our decade-long Partnership for Sexual Health Promotion with Church & Dwight, Co., Inc.; and a wide range of federal, private and corporate funding agencies.
The Center operates under the leadership of Drs. Debby Herbenick and Brian Dodge, in partnership with core faculty members at Indiana University - Bloomington, as well as strategic domestic and international academic institutions including the Indiana University School of Medicine, Columbia University, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and The Fenway Institute.
The primary goals of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion are:
- To conduct research in sexual health that:
- is consistent with the sexual health objectives established by leading public health entities
- is guided by the principles of community-based participatory research
- strives to be progressive with regard to scope, methodologies, and application.
- To facilitate research training to future sexual health scholars and practitioners through both research experience and linkages to strategic partners on campus and in the community.
- To work toward a more seamless continuum between sexual health research and the development of effective public health interventions and policies.
- To partner with community-based organizations and governmental entities both domestically and abroad to foster participatory and mutually beneficial research, education, and service.
- To provide education on sexual health topics to students and community-based health and education professionals through a variety of creative and collaborative mechanisms and in ways that consider the benefits of technology-based and distance learning methods.
- To provide a forum for discussion and debate related to issues associated with public health approaches to sexual health.
- To support a sustainable climate within public health that recognizes the importance of sexual health to the well-being and productivity of humans.
- To serve as a collaborative partner to other academic departments, institutes, and centers.
- To serve as a collaborative partner with faculty from both domestic and international academic institutions in order to play a supportive role in the ongoing development of the field of sexual health.
The work of the Center is consistent with leading sexual health philosophies, including:
- Those offered by the World Health Organization (2002), which formulates sexual health as:
- A capacity to enjoy and control sexual and reproductive behavior in accordance with a social and personal ethic,
- Freedom from fear, shame, guilt, false beliefs, and other psychological factors inhibiting sexual response and impairing sexual relationships, and
- Freedom from organic disorders, diseases, and deficiencies that interfere with sexual and reproductive functioning.
- Those offered by Aggleton and Campbell (2000), whose principles of sexual health describe it:
- As affirmative; a state of well-being imbued with positive qualities, not merely the absence of those that are undesired,
- As focusing on more than reproductive health; being concerned with more than the procreative relationships and modes of sexual expression,
- As an expression of individual and collective needs as well as broader human rights and responsibilities, and
- As focusing on the attainment and expression of sexual pleasure, not the repression of sexual energies and desires or their denial. Those that directly inform the development of efficacious community-based sexual health interventions. To that end, we strive to adhere closely well-established principles that guide participatory initiatives including the principles of community-based participatory researarch (CBPR).
- Those that directly inform the development of efficacious community-based sexual health interventions. To that end, we strive to adhere closely to state-of-the-art principles that guide participatory initiatives including the principles of community-based participatory research (CBPR) offered by Israel and colleagues (2010).
- CBPR facilitates collaborative, equitable partnerships in all phases of the research.
- CBPR integrates and achieves a balance between research and action for the mutual benefit of all partners.
- CBPR recognizes community as a unit of identity.
- CBPR builds on strengths and resources within the community.
- CBPR promotes co-learning and capacity building among all partners.
- CBPR involves a long-term process and commitment.
- CBPR emphasizes local relevance of public health problems and ecological perspectives that recognize and attend to the multiple determinants of health and disease.
- CBPR disseminates findings and knowledge gained to all partners and involves all partners in the dissemination process.
- CBPR involves systems development through a cyclical and iterative process.
Although significant efforts have been devoted to the development, implementation, and evaluation of sexual health promotion initiatives, the U.S. continues to struggle with high rates of unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease (STD), Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infection, and the physical, mental, and social consequences of these problems (Satcher, 2001). As a result, sexual health professionals must remain committed to developing new and innovative responses to sexual health problems and their impact on society.
For several decades, sexual health researchers and practitioners have largely focused their work on the need to reduce the incidence of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and other sexually transmitted infections (STI) and to prevent unintended pregnancies. Given the magnitude of these issues, and the extent to which they have challenged social structures and public health systems, a concentration on understanding their behavioral, social, and cultural correlates has been essential. However, one outcome of the intense focus on these issues by medical, behavioral, and social scientists is that much of our contemporary sexual health knowledge has been constructed in the context of the problems that result from sexual interactions. This has resulted in a body of research on the sexual health of communities that is very problem-oriented and resulted in a need for more innovative and effective approaches the addressing sexual health issues in societies around the globe (Reece & Dodge, 2004).
To effectively address the sexual health challenges facing society requires that researchers and practitioners attend to the social and cultural fabric of communities being studied and to understand the extent to which that fabric influences sexual behaviors of, and ultimately the health status of, a community’s members. However, situating studies and interventions within the context of a community’s social and cultural intricacies can be challenging. It necessitates that sexual health professionals acknowledge the diverse range of sexual norms, values, and behaviors of particular communities and commit to exploring, discussing, and debating topics related to the manner in which individuals and groups construct their sexual lives. The sexual health field will advance only if scholars and practitioners have informed insights and frameworks that help to structure studies and their research questions, have appropriate and progressive methods to conduct research, and are trained in the strategies through which research findings are effectively disseminated to the field, incorporated into interventions, and digested by community members themselves (Reece & Dodge, 2004).
While researchers may endorse such a call for more holistic sexual health research, they may be faced with the need to use innovative research methods and approaches in order to overcome complexities associated with designing and conducting studies consistent with such approaches. Particularly, if current and future scholars simultaneously try to apply a more holistic sexual health framework and continue efforts to engage community members, they may find the need for research training, research frameworks, and continuing education that support their ability to do so. Our Center strives to play a valuable role in facilitating more community-based and participatory sexual health research and is committed to providing comprehensive training to graduate students and community members in order to support the dissemination of such approaches.
Our Funding for Sexual Health Research, Education and Training
Projects of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion are currently, or have been previously, funded by:
- American Insitute of Bisexuality
- Church & Dwight, Co., Inc.
- For Goodness Sake, LLC
- Friends of the Kinsey Institute
- Indiana Clinical & Translational Sciences Initiative (CTSI)
- Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH)
- Indiana University Institute for Advanced Study
- Indiana University Office of the Vice Provost for International Affairs
- Indiana University Office of the Vice Provost for Research
- Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington
- Marion County Health Department
- National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Disease (NIAID)
- National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
- National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
- National Institute on Minority Health & Health Disparities (NIMHD)
- The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
- The Health Foundation of Greater Indianapolis
- The Joseph F. Miller Foundation
- The Patty Brisben Foundation
- The Picower Foundation
- U.S. Department of Education
- U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)