According to the Health Protection Agency, STIs are more common among young people than any other group. 16-24s represent only 12% of the UK population, but they account for more than half of all new STIs diagnosed and 65% of new chlamydia diagnoses. Yet they are also the least likely group to access services.
So can you overcome barriers to access and support sustainable behaviour change in this challenging area? Some key trends and tactics have emerged from our one-to-one work in the heart of communities….
- Make young people integral to the intervention – We’ve found that in order to ‘nudge’ positive changes in behaviour and realise a quantifiable shift of sexual health outcomes, it’s essential that sexual health services are appropriately targeted and designed specifically with young people at their heart – with full participation from the young people themselves.
- Move away from clinical settings – Provide flexible services in comfortable, non-traditional settings, at a time and place to suit young people. For instance, meeting 18-24 year olds ‘on their own turf’ (such as pubs, clubs and sports groups) has been essential to our chlamydia screening programme with one NHS Trust, as it’s allowed target groups to gain access to information informally without necessarily seeing a health professional.
- Use a peer-to-peer approach – Enlisting young people themselves to help deliver sexual health services can be transformational. Not only will peer groups help reduce the stigma of accessing services but they instinctively use language which young people know and understand. This also lessens the prospect of individuals feeling they’re being judged or preached to.
- Keep messaging clear and straightforward – It sounds obvious but brief, targeted communications are essential to drive home key messaging and avoid information overload. Our research for one Strategic Healthy Authority also highlighted that word of mouth was a primary form of communication for young people, particularly females.
- Tap into new technologies – More than any other age group, young people access information ‘on the go’, so use digital technologies to target messaging and make it as easy as possible for your audiences to atively engage with you where and when they choose. For example, we’ve successfully used discrete ‘easyscreen’ text messages services to deliver test results and provide tailored tips, reminders and signposting.
If you’d like to know more about replicating this proven approach and making it work for you, contact our Director of Health & Lifestyle Services, Simon Dudman on 07740 252144 / email@example.com