Social and Economic Benefits
It is estimated that in the U.S. the economic burden associated with new cases of STI among youth is $6.5 billion annually.
– Chesson, Blandford, Gift, Tao & Irwin, 2004
The primary objectives of a broadly based sexual health education program are to provide individuals with the necessary information, motivation, and behavioural skills to make informed choices about their sexual and reproductive health.
At the most basic level, young people who grow into adulthood well informed with accurate and comprehensive information about sexual and reproductive health are more likely to make choices that enable them to lead healthy and productive lives.
For example, while the socioeconomic outcomes of teenage pregnancy and parenthood are very complex (for a review of this literature see Bissell, 2000), it is clear that, particularly for younger teens, unintended pregnancy and childbearing can have profound social and economic consequences for the young woman, her family, and community.
Where well developed and implemented sexual health education programs can increase contraceptive use among sexually active young people, research clearly suggests that such increases in contraceptive use ultimately result in substantial cost savings to the healthcare system (Trussell, Koenig, Stewart & Darroch, 1997).
Chlamydia is the most common reportable sexually transmitted infection (STI) in Canada and the rate, which continues to rise, is highest among teens aged 15 to 19 (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2005).
Most Chlamydia infections in young people are asymptomatic, and if it is left untreated Chlamydia often leads to pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, chronic pelvic pain, ectopic pregnancy, and increased susceptibility to HIV infection (see SIECCAN 2004a). The lifetime medical costs associated with the treatment of these conditions are significant and consume considerable healthcare resources (Yeh, Hook & Goldie, 2003).
Research investigating the direct costs and economic benefits of conducting school-based sexual health education programs strongly suggests that well developed, high quality programs and services are not only cost effective but often result in significant cost savings (Wang, Burstein & Cohen, 2002: Wang, Davis, Robin, et al., 2000).
The monetary cost to society of HIV/AIDS, other STI, and unintended teen pregnancy are enormous. Sexual health education in the schools represents society’s only opportunity to reach nearly all youth with the knowledge and skills needed to make informed choices that reduce the likelihood of unwanted pregnancy and HIV/STI.
Reducing these negative outcomes results in significant economic cost savings to society.
Improving the sexual and reproductive health of Canadians through high quality sexual health education in the schools can make a meaningful contribution to the health and well-being of individual Canadians and their families