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The Need to Promote Sexual Health in America: A New Vision for Public Health Action

Ford, Jessie V. MS*; Ivankovich, Megan B. MPH; Douglas, John M. Jr MD; Hook, Edward W. III MD§; Barclay, Lynn BA; Elders, Joycelyn MD; Satcher, David MD, PhD**; Coleman, Eli PhD††

doi: 10.1097/OLQ.0000000000000660

Sexual health is considered to be a state of wellness with physical, emotional, mental, and social dimensions. Sexual health can contribute to our overall well-being in each of these dimensions. However, despite the intrinsic importance and positive aspects of sexuality in our lives, the United States presently faces significant challenges related to the sexual health of its citizens, including human immunodeficiency virus, other sexually transmitted infections, viral hepatitis, unintended pregnancies, sexual violence, sexual dysfunction, and cancers in reproductive tracts with serious disparities among the populations affected. In particular, high rates of poverty, income inequality, low educational attainment, stigma, racism, sexism, and homophobia can make it more difficult for some individuals and communities to protect their sexual health. Given that many pressing public health issues in the United States are related to sexual health and that sexual health has been increasingly recognized as an important national health priority, now is the time to energize and focus our efforts toward optimal sexual health of the population. In this paper, we outline the rationale for addressing sexual health as a means to better promote overall health and address sexuality related morbidities. In addition, we present a logic model outlining an approach for advancing sexual health in the United States, as well as a range of action steps for consideration by public health practitioners, researchers, and policymakers.

The United States presently faces significant challenges related to fostering and sustaining sexual health for its citizens. In this article, we present a logic model outlining an approach for addressing sexual health as a means to better promote overall health. Supplemental digital content is available in the text.

From the *Department of Sociology, NYU, New York, NY; †WI-HER LLC Women Influencing Health, Education, and Rule of Law, Vienna, VA; ‡Tri-County Health Department, Greenwood Village, CO; §Division of Infectious Diseases, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL; ¶American Sexual Health Association, Research Triangle Park, NC; ∥University of Arkansas School of Medicine, Little Rock, AR; **The Satcher Health Leadership Institute, Morehouse School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA; and ††Program in Human Sexuality, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, University of Minnesota Medical School, Minneapolis, MN

Conflict of interest: none declared.

Correspondence: Eli Coleman, PhD, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN. E-mail:

Received for publication October 6, 2016, and accepted May 15, 2017.

Supplemental digital content is available for this article. Direct URL citations appear in the printed text, and links to the digital files are provided in the HTML text of this article on the journal’s Web site (

© Copyright 2017 American Sexually Transmitted Diseases Association