The Morning After: A cross Party Inquiry into Unplanned Pregnancy

unplanned pregA Cross Party Inquiry into Unplanned Pregnancy led by Amber Rudd MP has called for alcohol and drug education to be included in sex and relationships education.

They say:

The government should take decisive action and make Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) statutory. This will allow for a more consistent and comprehensive programme to be implemented across the country which has clear guidelines for schools to follow. Adopting a holistic approach, SRE should include relationship counselling and education on alcohol and substance misuse. Whilst standardisation is crucial to ensure equality of access, schools should be given flexibility in how they deliver their Personal Social Health and Economic Education (PSHE) curriculum. For example, Relationship Education could be incorporated as part of Citizenship within PSHE, which is already compulsory.

We’re clear about the links between drug prevention and better sexual health and which is why we’ve consistently called for schools to deliver drug education as part of PSHE where these issues can be dealt with in a holistic manner.

I’m not sure that subsuming drug and alcohol education into SRE would however be a step forward.  What would be useful is to look at the work that Dr Dan Hale did while he was at the LSE where he developed an evidence based curriculum that could be delivered in an hour a week.

The LSE and How to Thrive have recently been awarded £687,000 to test the curriculum in an Randomised Control Trial across 30 schools and will looking at whether there is an impact on secondary school pupils’ academic achievement.

The programme is as follows:

  • Year 7 – Penn Resilience Programme (18); Academic Possible Selves (5); Life Skills Training (12)
  • Year 8 – Parents Under Construction (14); Media Smart (Body image) (8); Media Ready (Substances) (7) Academic Possible Selves (5);
  • Year 9 – Friends for Life (9); Academic Possible Selves (5); Science of Mental Illness (5); Safer Choices (10); School Health and Alcohol Harm Reduction Project (SHAHRP) (6)
  • Year 10 – MoodGym (4); Relationship Smarts (13); Safer Choices (10); SHAHRP (6)

Using Facebook to Change Behaviour

We all know that Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites have the potential to be used and abused when it comes to health.  We’ve seen the reporting of teenage parties that have gone off the rails once advertised on Facebook, and how user generated content about alcohol is probably more worrying than how alcohol companies themselves are using the platform.

On the flip side social movements, campaigning and fundraising have been transformed by the growth of these sites.

But I don’t think I’ve seen anything which looks at how Facebook can be used to improve health behaviours until now.  This paper which looks at whether sexual health prevention messages delivered via Facebook can preventing increases in sexual risk behaviour at 2 and 6 months changes that.

As you’ll see the measure of success was around the use of condoms and they report:

Time by treatment effects were observed at 2 months for condom use (intervention 68% vs control 56%, =0.04) and proportion of sex acts protected by condoms (intervention 63% vs control 57%, =0.03) where intervention participation reduced the tendency for condom use to decrease over time.

What they weren’t able to show was that the effects lasted as long as 6 months.

Nevertheless, it seems to me that if you can get the messages right and get an audience for them that this offers a low cost way of delivering effective prevention messages.

Something to think about as we explore what the Prevention Hub might be?

Drug Education Also Helps Curb Risky Sexual Behaviour

This is interesting:

The study found that youth exposed to a drug abuse education program [Project ALERT] were significantly less likely as young adults to either engage in sex with multiple partners or to have unprotected sex because of drug and alcohol use than their peers who had not received the training.

However, researchers found that those who received drug prevention training were no more likely to use condoms consistently than their peers who did not receive the training.

via RAND.

Alcohol/Energy Drink Mixes Linked with Casual, Risky Sex

As with the real world there is increasing interest in academic circles in the mix of alcohol and caffeine.

This study looks at the link between drinking alcohol mixed with energy drinks (AmEDs) and the sexual behaviour of university students.

The authors conclude:

The results seem to indicate that AmEDs may play a role in the “hook-up culture” that exists on many college campuses, says study author Kathleen E. Miller, senior research scientist at UB’s RIA.

The problem is that casual or intoxicated sex can increase the risk of unwanted outcomes, like unintended pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, sexual assault and depression, says Miller. And previous research has linked energy drink consumption with other dangerous behaviors: drunken driving, binge drinking and fighting, for example.

The researchers suggest that their findings are because mixing alcohol with energy drinks makes it harder to assess the level of intoxication which can lead to unintentional drunkenness.

Read more here.