WASHINGTON – After 18 months of talking about sexual health and responsible sexual behavior,18 national organizations agreed on three main recommendations for improving both.
But seven groups that initially agreed to work on the project dropped out because they could not agree on the conclusions,and even the remaining groups agreed to disagree on some subjects.
The National Consensus Process on Sexual Health and Responsible Behavior released an interim report on its work Thursday at a news conference at the National Press Club.
“The question of sexual health has become so highly charged that it often is considered too sensitive to approach,” the report says.
The group was able to agree on a common vision of what constitutes sexual health,a shared approach on best practices for research on sexual health and behavior,and what constitutes the core elements of education and discussion of sexual health and responsible sexual behavior for children and their parents.
“The results of our dialogue have an added significance. In a sense,we have dared to touch the a ‘3rd rail' in what some describe as the U.S. cultural wars and discovered that it is possible to reach some areas of significant agreement,while not compromising deeply held values,beliefs or commitments about which we may continue to disagree,” the report says.
Five years ago,former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher asked that the discussion take place. The Morehouse School of Medicine,where he is the interim president,provided the forum and assistance for the discussions.
“This national dialogue is honest,mature and respectful. In the end,significant areas of agreement were reached on key issues,” Satcher said.
He said he hoped the group would continue to discuss the subject and promote research.
The leaders disagreed on issues associated with HIV and AIDS and how to promote sexual abstinence. Although the group agreed parents are important in educating children about sexual health,they did not agree on exactly how parents should go about it.
Satcher said he called 28 diverse organizations to participate,and 18 completed the National Consensus Process. Three groups never responded to his call and seven that took part in early discussions withdrew from the process before the interim report was completed because they disagreed with its conclusions.
Lorraine Cole,president of the Black Women's Health Imperative,said that her program was created to empower black women and to promote health,research and leadership.
“It has been a very rare and enlightening experience to engage in dialogue – not debate –with others who represent extremely different perspectives,” she said. “The work of all of the organizations that remained involved should be enriched as a result of our identifying areas of mutual understanding and clarifying areas of difference.”
The Rev. Michael D. Place,who represented the U.S Conference of Catholic Bishops,said the process “has addressed a significant national need for a coherent public health policy with regard to sexual health. Hopefully,its recommendations will serve as a foundation for a much-needed respectful and inclusive national dialogue.”
Other groups participating include the American Academy of Pediatrics,the American College Health Association,the National Organization for Women and Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Among the groups that dropped out are Concerned Women for America; the Gay,Lesbian,Straight Education Network; and the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.