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