European Model of Sexual Health – The New 3Rs
We Can do Better!
Between 1991 and 2005, the teen birth rate in the United States decreased 34% to a record low. However between 2005 and 2006, the teen birth rate, after 15 years, increased by 3%. There are numerous theories as to why there has been an increase after 15 years but the fact remains that even with the 34% decrease in year’s past, the United States’ teen birth rate is still almost 10 times higher than the Netherlands, five times higher than France, and four times the rate of Germany.
Additionally, the United States’ teen abortion rate is substantially higher than these European Counties. Even with the lower teen birth and abortion rates in Western Europe, their young people initiate sexual intercourse at approximately the same age as youth in the United States. Furthermore, in Western Europe teen couples are together an average of one year before they engage in intercourse, compared to about 2 weeks in the teen population in the United States!
What's the Western European Secret?
In theory, the secret is basic and fundamental. Each of these nations has an unwritten social contract with young people: “We’ll respect your right to act responsibly, giving you the tools you need to avoid unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. More specifically, Western Europeans approach teen sexuality as a natural, healthy, normal process.
Their sexual health programs rely on scientific research, not political ideology, and the entire culture, including religious leaders, parents, and teachers send the same message; sexuality is healthy and normal but with it comes responsibility and respect.
The Dutch, Germans, and French spend far less time and effort than Americans in trying to prevent young people from having sex and more time and effort in educating and empowering young people to behave responsibly when they eventually decide to have sex. Educators, health care providers, and parents collaborate in providing sexual health information.
Society understands and conveys the message that teens' sexual development is not a problem but sexual intimacy should not occur until adolescents are ready and only within a caring, mutually respectful relationship.
This Western European philosophy translates into a variety of proven public health strategies that include:
- family communication
- comprehensive sex education,
- confidential and accessible health service,
- effective mass media campaigns,
- positive youth development,
- public health policies based on sound public healthy approaches.
Advocates for Youth has translated this philosophy into the New 3Rs —Rights, Respect, and Responsibility. The New 3Rs is a new way of thinking about adolescent sexual
health. It aims to create a youth-positive climate that takes practical, tangible form through an open-ended set of activities. The New 3Rs is not a specific program or project. Instead, it is an organizing principle supported by a host of activities, programs, curricula and policies that reflect the following core values:
We believe that youth have the right to accurate information and access to health services.
We respect youth as valued members of the community, with much to offer.
We trust youth and adults to make responsible decisions when they are provided information, taught skills, and given support to do so.
When The New 3Rs: Rights, Respect, Responsibility has achieved its ideal:
- Parents, families, teachers, community leaders, religious leaders, policy makers and opinion leaders will be able to talk about sex in a natural way, and will be committed to open communication with young people regarding sexuality.
- Comprehensive, age-appropriate sex education will be the norm-standardized, expected, and welcomed — available through multiple, easily accessible channels.
- Contraception, sexual protection, and sexual health services will be universally accessible and affordable.
- Young people will be equipped to make informed, thoughtful and healthy decisions about sex; they will automatically think about protecting themselves and their partners if and when they choose to have sex.
- Young people will have a voice in matters pertaining to their sexuality.
- Policy related to sexuality will be driven by proven public health approaches. Personal values and morals regarding decisions about sex will be respected and addressed within families and faith communities.
- The media will convey sexually responsible messages — in terms of both what it chooses to cover (sex as a healthy, natural part of being human) and how it chooses to cover it (frank, open, honest discussion, free of innuendo and fear-baiting).
- Prevention efforts will be successful. Unintended pregnancies will be reduced to the point that the abortion debate will be greatly diminished.
Visit the New 3Rs website.
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