Indigo Mason – Research on Capitol Hill 2021

(Mentor: Jessica Sanders)

Sex, sexuality, and reproduction are intimately tied to what it means to be alive. The study of reproductive health explores how economic, social, and political power is intertwined with intimacy, pregnancy, and birth. Even though the field has made remarkable strides, stigma and shame still linger surrounding these most intimate of experiences. In a time where education about sexual wellness varies greatly based on zip code (Kantor and Lindberg 2019), research finds similar disparities surrounding access to holistic care for preventative treatment, contraception, fertility, and pregnancy. Most vulnerable are young adults who have the highest risk of unintended pregnancy and increasing rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) across reproductive age groups (Kost 2017) (Institute 2019). Considering the disparities in adolescent sex education classes, how can colleges serve as a place to nurture positive sexual wellness behaviors that continue throughout the lifetime? What programs are currently available to support adolescents in college during their transition to early adulthood? Similarly, what are the impacts of innovative programs like no-cost contraceptive clinics and free condom delivery services on the college experiences of adolescents? I describe issues surrounding access to sexuality education and its related lifelong sexual wellness implications. I assess trends in adolescent access to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) across the nation and turn in to focus on Utah specific barriers. Focusing on the University of Utah specifically, I analyze survey data to assess gaps in knowledge and care as well as identify strategic places for innovative programs. These results find that students desire expanded contraceptive accessibility. I discuss the process of implementing evidence-based sexual wellness programs and conclude by proposing future areas of development for University health educators and administrators across the nation.

House Representative: Brian S. King
Senate Representative: John Johnson