Developing a Sexual Health Indicators Assessment Tool for the Public Health Agency of Canada

Investigators: B. Clarke, K. Folz, L. Smylie, M. Doherty, J. Gahagan, J. Otis, G. Smith, A. MacKay, and J. D. Willms

The purpose of this research is to contribute to the sexual health assessment methods that currently exist in Canada. This study is comprised of two phases. In the first phase, researchers identified a comprehensive set of sexual health indicators and developed an assessment tool, the Canadian Sexual Health Indicator (CSHI), based on these indicators. This individual self-reported survey aims to assess the sexual health of diverse Canadian youth aged 16 to 24 years from a variety of locations.

The objectives of phase two of the research project include finalizing and formatting the CSHI survey, peer-review of the assessment tool, pilot-testing the assessment tool, and validating the indicators of sexual health. The proposed pilot-project will sample 1,200 youth from four sites (Alberta, Nova Scotia, Quebec and British Columbia). The survey will be administered using the Tell Them From Me (TTFM) program developed by Douglas Willms and his colleagues at the University of New Brunswick. The TTFM program provides a relatively low cost reliable tool with which to administer the assessment tool. The use of this tool would allow for the administration of the survey to youth via computer, which the literature suggests is a valid and reliable means of administering a questionnaire on a sensitive topic to youth. The TTFM program allows for an extremely efficient process throughout the data collection phase, allowing for the continuous monitoring of response rates, sample distribution, as well as the rapid reporting back of data to youth participants and community partners on a weekly basis.

This research project will result in a validated sexual health assessment tool for youth ready for long-term use in the collection of national level sexual health data. The expectation is that the conceptual framework of sexual health adopted in these two phases with youth, the project methodology, and the assessment tool for youth will serve as a model for the development of sexual health assessment tools for other life stages.

Funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada for $225,000 (June 2008 – June 2010).