Best Practices

Youth Sexual Health

What is sexual health?

Sexual health is attained through the development of skills that support lifelong physical. emotional, mental and social well-being, in addition to information about human anatomy and physiology, sexual health includes knowledge and skills related to:


  • decision-making and goal-setting about when and if to have a family;
  • creating safe relationships;
  • developing self-acceptance and a positive identity; and
  • communicating with health professionals, partners and families


Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and relationships, and includes the possibility of having safe and wanted sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence1


All Colorado youth deserve the right to access the information, resources and services they need to make informed and responsible decisions about their sexual health.  Young people must be allowed to develop hopes and dreams for their future, have some goals to work toward, and receive support and guidance from trusted adults.2


The resources below are intended to help providers use best practices and find ways to address the needs of all youth.


Data and Research on Adolescent Sexual Health:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: The Center for Disease Control offers information about youth sexual health and behaviors, with facts about STI’s, HIV, teen pregnancy, contraception, and effective, science-based education strategies.

Colorado Youth Matter:  The State of Adolescent Sexual Health in Colorado Report: This annual report put out by Colorado Youth Matter describes data and trends in adolescent sexual heath across the state. Included in the report are statistics for Colorado and the US on teen births, HIV/STIs, sexual behavior, health disparities and recommendations. This brief report provides insight and a starting place for some critical basic information regarding teen pregnancy. 
Child Trends: Child Trends examines sexual activity, contraceptive use, and fertility, focusing particularly on teens and young adults, to help program providers and policy makers develop strategies for preventing unintended pregnancies, nonmarital births, and sexually transmitted infections. Child Trends contains information and links to various research reports, speeches and presentations, facts sheets/fast facts, and other publications on teen sexual health.


Recommended Strategies:

Youth Sexual Health in Colorado: A Call to Action:  Colorado's effort to address youth sexual health as a holistic issue in young people's lives beyond preventing unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.  The Call to Action provides strategies at the policy level, community level and family/peer level to improve the sexual health of individuals:


  • Reducing rates of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV
  • Reducing rates of unintended teen pregnancy
  • Decreasing the incidence of sexual assault and dating violence
  • Increasing participation by youth in educational and career opportunities

The Call to Action recommends partnering with young people to develop, implement and evaluate community actions and strategies.  Research demonstrates the value of this kind of collaboration to young people, adults and community organizations.

Insights from Oregon’s Youth Sexual Health Plan:
The Oregon Youth Sexual Health Plan is an example of one of a few state health plans that prioritizes effective, meaningful strategies to improve the reproductive and sexual health of teens. It offers insights and examples, which other states could use as models to improve their health curriculums. The plan demonstrates that quality sexual health education serves as a key aspect to helping develop healthy youth and communities.

Youth Adult Partnerships: Advocates for Youth offers a variety of publications and information on youth adult partnerships from a variety of perspectives. Tools and tips are provided for how to have a successful and effective youth adult partnership.

Effective, Science-based Teen Pregnancy and STI/HIV Prevention Programs: Emerging Answers, 2007 (published by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy) provides an in depth look of information regarding research on programs that have been proven, through rigorous research to change sexual risk-taking behavior. Included in this report is a list of a variety of programs that have been proven to positively impact adolescent behavior over time.

Additional Resources:

Sex, Etc.: Sex, Etc. is a website and magazine written by high school students in the New Jersey/New York area addressing teen sexual health topics. It is published through Rutgers University and provides a look at sexual health through teens’ perspectives. 
Healthy Teen Network: In addition to providing resources on teen pregnancy and HIV prevention, the Healthy Teen Network works to support teen parents and families to help them lead healthy lives. This provides an introduction to some overall topics of teen sexual health, research and effective adolescent sexual health programs. 

The National Association of County & City Health Officials (NACCHO):
NACCHO offers additional resources on adolescent sexual health topics, including information on teen parenting, sexual activity, STI and HIV/AIDS prevention, reproductive health, contraceptive use, and more.

Related Colorado Programs:
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), Family Planning Program offers information about family planning services provided by the state. It provides complete, accurate information on adolescent sexual health data as well as strategies for supporting healthy families and youth. To learn more about birth control options, sexually transmitted infections (STDs or STIs), and pregnancy planning, visit
Colorado Youth Matter assists and works with organizations, schools and communities to promote healthy sexual and reproductive development of all teens and advance the well-being of parenting teens. Through training, technical assistance, public education, and advocacy, Colorado Youth Matter works to promote research and science-based programs and strategies to improve the health and well being of teens. 

Colorado 9to25 is a collective, action-oriented group of Colorado youth and adults working in partnership to align efforts and acheive positive outcomes for all youth, ages 9-25, so they can reach their full potential.  This youth system-building effort aims to ensure that:

  1. All youth are safe,
  2. All youth are physically and mentally healthy,
  3. All youth receive a quality education,
  4. All youth are connected to caring adults, school, and their communities, and
  5. All youth are contributing to their community (e.g., volunteering, working).


1World Health Organization, (2012), Sexual Health, Retreived from:

2Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, (2012) Youth Sexual Health in Colorado: A Call to Action, Denver, CO