Sex education strategies 'inadequate' - study


More funding is needed to reach teens at high risk of pregnancy, Family Planning has said following a report that's found some students are turning away from contraceptives.

Data from 27,000 Kiwi high school students has found while teens are delaying sexual activity compared to a decade ago, those that are having sex are less likely to use condoms and contraception consistently.

The research from the University of Auckland compared survey results from 2001 to 2012 and found more access to sexual health services and better education are urgently needed for high-risk teens.

"Declining contraceptive use over an 11-year period suggests that current strategies are inadequate, particularly for Maori, Pacific and socioeconomically deprived students," study lead Terryann Clark said.

"Appropriate and accessible sexual and reproductive health services and comprehensive sexuality education are urgently required."

Condom used dropped from 48.8 percent in 2001 to 45.5 percent in 2012, the study found.

Dr Clark said one of the best ways to reduce teen pregnancy was to make sure students had future plans and were engaged at school.

Access to free, non-judgmental and culturally appropriate sexual health care and education were important too, she said.

"Sexual health is still shrouded in secrecy, shame and embarrassment. Health professionals, educators and families do not address sexual health issues with youth well," she said.

Family Planning's national medical advisor Christine Roke said it had various programmes in place to reach high-risk teens, but they were often expensive and funding was a constraint.

She said it had increased drop-in clinics - which had been popular with Maori and Pasifika clients - set up temporary clinics at schools that didn't have Family Planning centres and increased services over the phone, including free numbers in areas where people couldn't afford the mobile charges.

"We're very keen in trying to reach out to particularly young people who are not accessing our services and try to make sure our services are acceptable to them," she said.

"These outreaches all cost more than sitting in a clinic and waiting for people to come see you. So we're limited. It would be great to have more resources."

Dr Roke said the organisation hoped an upcoming Ministry of Health sexual health action plan would lead to more funding for outreach programmes.

She said the findings in the study were valuable, but that the data's age may not reflect current trends.

"Things may have changed a bit. What we have noticed is a lot of young people are taking up the long-acting reversible contraceptives, which we think is excellent."

Comment has been sought from the Ministry of Health.