LEBANON, N.H. — A new report reveals, for the first time, a full picture of sexual health in the United States. Sexual Health Rankings™ is the most comprehensive measure of Americans’ sexual health ever developed, and the first state-by-state comparison of overall sexual health.
Sexual Health Rankings™ folds 26 different measures of sexual health into a single index, and rates the 50 states and District of Columbia according to their index scores.
The report finds that sexual health varies widely across state populations. In this first edition of Sexual Health Rankings™, which covers the year 2012, Vermont ranks highest (#1) in sexual health. Mississippi ranks as the least sexually healthy state (#51).
The main platform for Sexual Health Rankings™ is the Web site, www.sexualhealthrankings.com, which lets users explore the data, build community, and connect with additional resources to inform positive, evidence-based approaches to promoting sexual health.
Sexual Health Rankings™ is based on the World Health Organization’s definition of sexual health, which emphasizes wellness, and encompasses human rights, sexual expression and identity, and sexual pleasure. The World Health Organization defines sexual health as:
“… a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence. For sexual health to be attained and maintained, the sexual rights of all persons must be respected, protected and fulfilled.”
“Sexual health is an essential part of health—each individual person’s health, and the health of society as a whole,” says Sexual Health Rankings™ Director Martin Downs, MPH. “Sexual health relates to many different parts of the body, aspects of life, and areas of society, in ways that aren’t always obvious.”
This positive, comprehensive way of thinking about sexual health is different from how sexual health was viewed historically. Until recently, medical and public health experts thought of sexual health mainly in terms of disease and reproduction. Leading health authorities in the United States now accept a broad, positively focused view of sexual health, which is informing changes in national health policy, medical education, and even the marketing of consumer products.
The Sexual Health Rankings™ index includes traditional sexual health indicators, such as rates of sexually transmitted infections, teen births, and sexual violence. It also includes indicators related to sexual satisfaction, and social factors that influence sexual health. Some, but not all, of these factors have to do with personal choices and behaviors. Laws and policies, culture, economic conditions, education, and health care systems also affect every person’s sexual health in some way.
“We need to be able to measure the sexual health of populations in order to know how all these factors relate to one another, to understand differences between populations, and to tell what’s working and what isn’t when we try to improve sexual health,” Downs says. “We use data that are currently available, but more and better measures of sexual health are needed. We want to spur the development of such measures.”
Sexual Health Rankings™ is a research project, but that is not all it is. It is meant to be a tool that people can use to identify needs and take positive action to improve sexual health across the United States.
Sexual Health Rankings™ is produced by Variance, LLC, in partnership with the Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health (CSPH), a nonprofit organization based in Pawtucket, R.I. Sexual Health Rankings™ is an independent initiative of Variance, LLC and the CSPH, and has no other sources of funding or support.