Sex Ed Programs

sexedUsing an effective sexuality education program in your school or community will help youth in your program to build skills, knowledge and positive attitudes that result in behavior changes that help them to lead healthy lives. Effective programs have been rigorously evaluated and shown to promote healthy sexual behaviors among the youth who participate in these programs.

Effective programs are often referred to as evidence-based programs (not to be confused with programs containing scientifically accurate information). Evidence-based approaches to teen pregnancy prevention refers to the process a school or community organization uses to plan for, select, implement and evaluate a program that is likely to be successful.  The following page offers informaiton on what effective program are, what assistance is available and how schools and community-based organizations can access them.

  • Using evidence-based approaches for teen pregnancy prevention is a selection process that helps ensure that programs have a greater chance of succeeding. A science-based approach includes the following:

    • Research: Using demographic, epidemiological and social science research to identify populations at risk of early pregnancy and/or sexually transmitted infections, and to identify the risk and protective factors for those populations.
    • Theory: Using health behavior or health education theory for selecting risk and protective factors that will be addressed by the program, and guide the selection of intervention activities.
    • Logic Model: Using a logic model to link risk and protective factors with program strategies and outcomes.
    • Proven Program: Selecting, adapting if necessary, and implementing programs that are either science-based or are a promising program.
    • Evaluation: Conducting process and outcome evaluation of the implemented program, and modifying approach based on results.
  • A science-based program is one that research has shown to be effective in changing at least one of the following behaviors that contribute to early pregnancy, STI and HIV infection: 

    • Delaying sexual initiation
    • Reducing the frequency of sexual intercourse
    • Reducing the number of sexual partners
    • Increasing the use of condoms and other contraceptives
    The program was evaluated using a rigorous research design, which includes the following:

    • Using an experimental or quasi-experimental evaluation design
    • Measuring knowledge, attitude, and behavior
    • Having an adequate sample size
    • Collecting data from both groups at three months or later after intervention
    • Using sound research methods and processes
    • Replicating in different locations and finding similar evaluation results
    • Publishing results in a peer-reviewed journal

  • A promising program is one that has not been formally evaluated but has most of the characteristics of programs shown to be effective.

    Dr. Douglas Kirby and colleagues have developed a list of 17 characteristics of effective curriculum-based programs. This list was developed by conducting a systematic review of 83 domestic and international sexuality education and HIV prevention program evaluations. In their review, Kirby,, found that the majority of the effective programs incorporated most of the 17 common characteristics of successful curriculum-based programs identified in the analysis.

    The characteristics are divided into three categories:
    • Program development
    • Program design/content
    • Program implementation

    **It is important to note that this list of characteristics applies only to curriculum-based sexuality/HIV education programs. To date there is not a comparable list of characteristics for other types of programs, such as clinic-based, youth development, or parent education programs.