News Release Archive

An extensive grassroots report on youth sexual health in Nova
Scotia was released today by Health Minister Ron Stewart.

"This is a unique report because it reflects the voices of young
people in Nova Scotia," said Dr. Stewart. "Certainly the report
leaves each of us with a challenge to look at how sexual health
services for youth are delivered in Nova Scotia, and how we can
improve on what is currently being done." 

"This document will be a valuable tool to start a dialogue in
communities on how youth sexual health and development programs
can be more relevant, how we talk about sexual health and how we
acknowledge it. The report is an important resource for service
providers, parents and youth."

The report, called Just Loosen Up and Start Talking, was prepared
in partnership with Planned Parenthood Nova Scotia. It catalogues
the results of frank and open discussions with youth across the
province who say there needs to be better communication on sexual
health issues, particularly in rural areas. About
two-thirds of the youth who participated in the project are from
rural areas of the province.

"Sexuality is not simply about facts, it is also about feelings,"
said Cari Patterson, executive director of Planned Parenthood
Nova Scotia. "Youth need to feel comfortable, to be engaged in an
honest and upfront manner, and to have their voices heard and
respected. We can do something about working towards youth sexual
health, and this report is an exciting tool to help us get

The report is the result of interviews with more than 200 youth
in communities in each of the four health regions. A team of
trained youth interviewers talked to their peers face-to-face in
every county to collect the information that makes up the
report's baseline advice for improving youth sexual health. The
youth interviewees ranged in age from 14 to 24 years. Current
providers of sexual health resources to youth in the province
were also consulted. The report provides a basis of discussion of
youth sexual health in Nova Scotia, and offers practical
recommendations from youth themselves.

Youth said friends are their first source of information on
sexuality issues, but young people recognize their peers don't
have enough information. They said parents are also a source of
information, but parents often feel uncomfortable discussing
sexuality with their children. Physicians are another source of
information and advice, but in the report, youth ask their family
doctors to respect them and their concerns and questions, rather
than judge them.

Other highlights of the report:

- 79 per cent of youth say they are sexually active

- 60 per cent report they have had sexual intercourse by the age
  of 16 years

- 57 per cent report not always using protection to prevent
  pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection

- about one third of youth report having had a sexual experience
  forced on them

- nearly half say they would not seek any help after being
  sexually abused out of fear, shame or embarrassment 

- 43 per cent of youth reported experiencing date abuse, either
  sexual, physical or emotional

- lesbian and gay youth, approximately 15 per cent of the youth
  population, feel they have additional barriers

- the consistent message from parents, peers, teachers,
  television/movies and society is "Don't be gay," which poses
  additional barriers for lesbian and gay youth.

The findings reflect the experiences of both young men, 49 per
cent of participating youth, and young women, 51 per cent of
participating youth.

In the report's final comments, youth offer some practical advice
to adults, start talking about sex openly and plainly.

"The problem is adults lack of acceptance of sex as reality so
they condemn it and won't give kids the facts they need," said
one of the more than 200 youth interviewed for the report. "They
need to relax and do what is right."


Contact: Lori MacLean
         Communications Officer

         Cari Patterson
         Planned Parenthood Nova Scotia

EDITORS NOTE: A four-page summary of Just Loosen Up and Start
Talking is available upon request. Please contact Lori MacLean or
Communications Nova Scotia (902-424-4492 or toll-free
1-800-670-4357) to have it faxed to you.

Reporters and editors may also wish to contact Public Health and
Planned Parenthood offices in their local community:

Planned Parenthood             Public Health

Ruthie Patriquin               Eastern Region
Amherst                        Eileen Woodford
902-667-7500                   A/Director, Public Health Services

Mary Frier                     Northern Region
Planned Parenthood Bridgewater Lubin Bourque
Bridgewater                    Director, Public Health Services
902-543-1315                   Truro

Cathie Penny                   Western Region
Planned Parenthood Cape Breton Carol MacKinnon
Sydney                         Director, Public Health Services
902-539-5158                   Wolfville

Jennifer McCarron                For Central Region, please
Planned Parenthood Pictou County contact Lori MacLean
New Glasgow                      902-424-5025

Janice Acton
Planned Parenthood Metro Clinic

trp                      June 05, 1996 - 10:30 a.m.