HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – A Marshall University study found that a virtual sex education tool improved reproductive health knowledge scores and measures of self-efficacy among adolescent girls.
The findings, published last month in Sex Education, a leading international journal on sex, sexuality and relationships in education, found that sexual health knowledge scores on a validated scale increased among participants, along with improved measures of self-efficacy regarding birth control, healthy relationships and sexually transmitted infection (STI) prevention. Notably, a greater proportion of participants reported improved confidence in obtaining birth control, recognizing an unhealthy relationship and testing for STIs.
A research team at the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine conducted a baseline assessment of sexual health knowledge among adolescent females ages 14 to 18. Participants also answered questions about past experiences with school sex education programs and self-efficacy. They then completed the online curriculum available at www.marshallteentalk.org, which covers a range of sexual health topics presented through short, animated videos. A post-survey then reassessed participants’ sexual health knowledge, along with the same measures of self-efficacy.
“Adolescents use websites and social media for sexual health information; therefore, there is a great need for accurate, evidence-based online reproductive health tools,” said Marshall Health Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecologist Jennie L. Yoost, M.D., M.Sc., an associate professor at the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine and senior author of the study. “Marshall Teen Talk was designed specifically to provide local adolescents an accessible and accurate resource for reproductive health that they can trust. This study validates the website as an effective teaching tool.”
In the current study, 30.3% of participants reported they had never had sex education classes in school. The online curriculum was overwhelmingly favored by study participants, with 94% reporting the information was presented in a way that was easy to understand, and 93.9% reported they would recommend the website to a friend.
In addition to Yoost, the research team included Dani Roth; Emma Nellhaus, M.D.; Morgan Ruley; Ariana Hess, M.D.; and Rajan Lamichhane, Ph.D. The team will expand future studies to include male and nonbinary adolescents, as well as partnerships with teachers. As adolescents in rural areas are less likely to seek out sexual health services, this website can also potentially serve our community by linking individuals to specific health resources and clinical needs.
Marshall Teen Talk was established in 2014 by Yoost as an after-school telehealth outreach to rural West Virginia high schools. Since that time, the program evolved into an evidence-based online curriculum available at www.marshallteentalk.org that can be completed in approximately 45 minutes and can be used as a supplement to classroom learning. The project was funded through rural health initiative grants from the Robert C. Byrd Center for Rural Health at Marshall University with funding from the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission and private donors. Website design and animation were developed by Bulldog Creative Services.
To view the article in its entirety, visit “A virtual sex education tool improved reproductive health knowledge among adolescent girls” by Roth et al., please visit https://doi.org/10.1080/14681811.2023.2203909.
Media Contact: Sheanna Spence, Marshall Health/Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, 304-691-1639
Date Posted: Friday, May 26, 2023