Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2016


Community Health and Preventive Medicine | Education | Health Services Research | Higher Education | Medical Education | Medicine and Health Sciences | Public Health and Community Nursing | Public Health Education and Promotion


LuAnn Reif, Nursing; Georgia Hogenson, Nursing; Rachelle Larsen, Nursing


A great divide exists among parents, policy makers, educational institutions, and the public at large regarding how to prevent the negative consequences of sexual activity among young adults. Some educators believe that sex education programs should promote abstinence as the best behavioral goal for students; however, a more intense debate surrounds whether this should be the only message that adolescents receive about sex or just one element of a more comprehensive view of sexuality and informed sex choices. Catholic colleges face a particularly difficult challenge in deciding what information to provide to students and more significantly, which topics to avoid due to their conservative values. It is clear that adolescence and young adulthood is a high-risk period for sexual risk-taking behaviors that increase the probability of acquiring sexually transmitted infections (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2009). Yet, religiously affiliated colleges and universities struggle to provide the information students need to stay healthy and have fulfilling sexual relationships. The following literature review explores the ongoing debate concerning abstinence-only versus comprehensive sexual education and suggests with principles of health care ethics and ethical theories that Catholic college campuses take a comprehensive approach to sexual health promotion that not only respects the sexuality of each student but also encourages students to make informed decisions about sex. The culminating pilot study emphasizes the need for sexual health education at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University and recommends specific strategies for producing sexual health promotion programming in the future.