179407 State Efforts to Ensure Scientific and Medical Accuracy in Sexuality

Tuesday, October 28, 2008: 12:50 PM

John S. Santelli, MD , Department of Population and Family Health, Columbia University, New York, NY
Background: Recently, many states have implemented requirements for scientific or medical accuracy in sexuality education. While seemingly uncontroversial, these requirements appear to be responding to the increasing injection of ideology into sexuality education.

Methods: We collected information on state requirements for and definitions of medical accuracy using a WestLaw search of all 50 state statutes conducted in the spring of 2007.

Results: Twenty-one states (AZ, CA, CO, IA, IL, IN, LA, ME, MD, MI, MN, MO, NV, NY, NC, OK, OR, RI, UT, WA, WV) had required accuracy (using a variety of terms) in the provision of sexuality and/or HIV/AIDS education, often without defining the term. Seven states had definitions of medical accuracy (CA, CO, IA, NJ, NM, UT, WA); four of these definitions appear in state requirements for sexuality education. Key elements of state definitions included research conducted under accepted scientific methods, peer review publication, the weight of scientific evidence, and recognition as accurate and objective by mainstream scientific and health organizations. One state invoked complete information and one state tied medical accuracy to scientific theory. A comparison of these definitions of medical accuracy to those used by groups promoting exclusively abstinence until marriage found critical missing elements including a failure to acknowledge scientific consensus, recognition by mainstream agencies, and the predominance of scientific evidence. Neither states nor abstinence organizations focused on the use of theory in guiding scientific discovery and producing consensus.

Discussion: Using the standard of scientific or medical accuracy may be highly useful to advance key public health goals.

Learning Objectives:
1. Be familiar with the definition of medical accuracy and the importance of these in sexuality education. 2. Identify 3 key elements of medical accuracy that can used to promote science-based health policies

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Chair of Population and Family Health Department, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.