196801 Goodness of comprehensive sex education and the morally questionable act of abstinence-only education

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Joseph E. Balog, PhD , Health Science, College at Brockport, State University of New York, Brockport, NY
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that adolescent boys and girls have high rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). For example, one in four (26%) females adolescents in the United State has at least one for the most common STIs, and among adolescent girls who reported ever having had sex, the STI prevalence was 40%. Partially in response to this health problem, abstinence-only programs have been implemented to change the sexual behaviors of the young and to reduce threats of STIs. However, scientific research presents evidence that abstinence-only interventions are ineffective in changing the sexual behaviors of the young.

Using a normative ethics approach, several health professionals question the logic of continuing to offer such ineffective, inaccurate and misleading programs. It is common in these discussions to present a set of moral principles that argue why a health action as abstinence-only education is right or wrong, good or bad, obligatory, permissible, forbidden or worthwhile. However, what is uncommon in the literature is the presentation of a metaethical approach that analyzes what health actions are, ethically speaking, good, essential, and desirable when attempting to prevent sexually transmitted diseases? This paper presents a metaethical analysis about the question of whether abstinence-only education and comprehensive sex education are “good” disease prevention and health promotion programs and is one of these alternatives a better alternative? The author concludes that abstinence-only education is morally questionable and comprehensive sex education is inherently good on scientific, educational and moral grounds.

Learning Objectives:
Describe, from a metaethical perspective: (1)the meaning and essence of health and disease; (2) what is the essential nature and essence of a "good" public health disease prevention and health promotion intervention; and (3) why a comprehensive sex education intervention is a good and better alternative for preventing disease and promoting health than an abstinence-only intervention.

Keywords: Ethics, Health Education Strategies

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been researching, writing, presenting and have been published in the area of ethics and health for over 30 years.
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.

See more of: Ethics SPIG Round Table
See more of: Ethics SPIG