Background In 2010 WHO convened an expert consultation to formulate recommendations and strategic directions for sexual health. Two specific recommendations, derived from the consultation were: (a) to develop a conceptual framework on sexual health that clearly outlines the elements of sexual health and how it overlaps and differs from reproductive health and the role of sexuality; (b) to develop, operationalize and promote sexual health indicators.
Method The WHO Department of Reproductive Health and Research established consultative processes, including a review of the existing evidence, conducted interviews with key informants and held expert consultations to address the aforementioned recommendations.
Results Two documents; Towards a conceptual framework for sexual health: understanding and improving sexual health for all and Core Set of Sexual Health Indicatorswere developed during 2011–2013.
The conceptual framework outlines the central role that key sexual health concepts of autonomy, individual choice and protection of human rights play in achieving health and development outcomes. The document proposes new ways of ‘framing’ sexual health in order to reach the widest audience, which in turn can influence and deliver positive approaches for ensuring sexual health for all.
The proposed indicators cover the following areas of sexual health: adolescent sexual health, family planning, harmful practises, healthy sexuality, sexual dysfunctions and concerns, STI/HIV, and sexual violence. Indicators range from policy, to services (access) to outcome/impact. Most of the proposed indicators have previously been validated, however some new population-based survey indicators have been submitted for validation through special surveys among men who have sex with men and people who inject drugs, to be conducted throughout 2012/2013 in the WHO European region. Preliminary validation results are available.
Conclusion Both documents are concrete steps towards promoting sexual health as a public health concept at international and national levels.
- Health Indicators
- Policy and research
- sexual health