Why Pediatricians Should Teach Sex Ed

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Doctors Should Educate Their Young Patients About Sex.
Doctors Should Educate Their Young Patients About Sex.Photo: Jim Craigmyle

Pediatricians should discuss sex ed with young patients and their parents, according to a new report by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The report denounces abstinence-only education as “ineffective” and says that studies have shown that all children should receive “developmentally appropriate” sex education from a variety of sources: not just parents and teachers, but also health-care providers. The report notes that adolescent and teen pregnancies have recently fallen from the all-time high rates of the 1990s.

But a significant stumbling block to the recommendations is that pediatricians often don’t talk about sex or even sexually transmitted disease with patients. The report notes that one in three adolescents surveyed said they had received no guidance from their health-care provider.

Interestingly, this lack of willingness to discuss sexual matters is also one of the reasons researchers have said that HPV vaccination rates for both young boys and girls remain very low, despite overwhelming evidence that it is very effective. Though the AAP’s new report doesn’t ascribe reasons for why doctors don’t talk these matters over with patients, a study last year suggested that many doctors are simply uncomfortable with the topic.