An expert consensus initiative to develop professional guidance on female sexual function and health
Healthy sexuality is a key component of quality of life. “Frontline” health care providers—clinicians, counselors, and patient advocates from all disciplines and specialties—are perfectly positioned to screen, diagnose, and initiate treatment for some of the most common forms of female sexual dysfunction. To offer women the best possible patient care, many frontline clinicians must learn new skills in discussing sexuality with patients, managing common sexual health and wellness issues, and making appropriate referrals.
ARHP’s Sexual Health Fundamentals for Patient Care initiative is based on original research on provider attitudes and beliefs, a thorough analysis of all relevant scientific research, and a series of consensus meetings of clinical and behavioral science experts in sexuality. These intensive sessions focused on developing expert consensus to create guidance for frontline health care providers on improving patient care in sexual health and wellness as well as female sexual dysfunction. The meetings specifically addressed decreased sexual desire in women and disorders that contribute to it, such as vaginal atrophy, dyspareunia, and others. A secondary goal for the meetings was to provide expert guidance to assist professional organizations and societies in developing educational materials on female sexuality for their constituencies.
Sexual Health Fundamentals for Patient Care builds on ARHP’s well-regarded history of collaboration with experts and colleague organizations to educate all members of the health care team about female sexual function. For more information, please contact Camille Harris, MPH at email@example.com or (202) 466-3825.
Women worldwide are affected by sexual concerns, and many suffer in silence, too embarrassed to broach the topic with their health care provider. A recent consumer survey by ARHP and HealthyWomen found that although many women claimed comfort in talking to health care providers about sexual health issues, less than one-fifth actually visited their provider when they experienced a problem or had questions. Health care providers are generally reluctant to inquire about women’s sexual concerns and most lack the adequate training to address basic sexual issues. ARHP and HealthyWomen also surveyed providers and found that only 11% felt very or extremely confident in their ability to provide appropriate care for patients experiencing symptoms of sexual dysfunction.1
|Meeting Series Participants|
Anita Clayton, MD
Linda Dominguez, RN-C, NP
Susan Kellogg Spadt, CRNP, PhD (Co-chair)
Michael Krychman, MD (Co-chair)Committee MembersGloria A. Bachmann, MD
Laurie A. Bailey, MD
Don S. Dizon, MD, FACP
Murray A. Freedman, MD
Ailsa Elizabeth Gebbie, FRCOG, FFSRH
Beth Jordan, MD
Anne Katz, RN, PhD
Sheryl Kingsberg, PhD
Leah S. Millheiser, MD
Rossella E. Nappi, MD, PhD
Sharon J. Parish, MD
Michael A. Perelman, PhDFacilitators
Glenn Tecker, Tecker Consultants
Leigh Wintz, RN, MSN, CAE, Tecker Consultants
Initiative Design and Activities
To launch this initiative, ARHP hosted a series of consensus meetings. The goal was to bring together clinical and behavioral science experts in sexuality to develop evidence-based guidance for frontline health care providers on women’s sexual health and wellness. The experts were tasked with considering the perspective of frontline health care providers, who may not be experts in sexual medicine, but are likely see patients experiencing sexual difficulties. A list of the experts who participated in the meeting series is available here.
The experts’ discussion is captured in a summary document to inform other advocacy and professional organizations and health care providers interested in improving sexual health care. The report, Sexual Health Fundamentals for Patient Care Initiative: Report of a US Consensus Process, is available here.
Throughout this process, ARHP has worked to link with various professional organizations, including advocacy and professional societies. A diverse mix of professional disciplines and specialties were represented in the consensus process, including physicians, advanced practice clinicians, educators, therapists, counselors, and others who see female patients. The consensus process and its outcomes will be freely shared with the wide range of professional groups whose constituents can benefit. Many of these associated organizations are currently developing education and outreach platforms that will benefit from the groundwork done by the Sexual Health Fundamentals for Patient Care initiative.
Sex and Sexuality Resources
ARHP maintains an active Sex and Sexuality Reproductive Health Topic Area, which features current research, headlines, continuing education opportunities, clinical publications, and patient resources on sexuality. Information from the meeting series has been integrated into the Topic Area to provide access to the many clinicians and patients visiting the site. Integration of content into CORE, ARHP’s on-line, open-access collection of peer-reviewed, evidence-based teaching materials
Providers and patients should also explore Sex and a Healthier You, a joint initiative from ARHP and HealthyWomen. The campaign seeks to advance positive sexual health messages through proving accurate information and raising awareness about sexual function as a natural and valued aspect of women’s lives. Check out www.SexandAHealthierYou.org for valuable patient resources, including sexuality Q&As, an e-newsletter, and more.
Consensus Process Outcomes Presentations at Society Meetings
Information and outcomes from the meeting series will assist other health professionals in providing optimal patient care around sexual health and wellness. During the first half of 2010, ARHP plans to disseminate the consensus meeting outcomes through a series of 8-10 sexual health presentations by expert panelists at a variety of society meetings.
Resources for Frontline Health Care Providers
ARHP will soon be launching a series of Sexual Health Fundamentals fact sheets based on consensus outcomes from the expert panelists. These fact sheets are designed to assist frontline health care providers when they are talking with patients about sexuality and sexual health. These resources will be available at no cost, based on ARHP’s open access model and organizational goal to provide trusted information and education to health professionals. The fact sheets include:
- Screening and Treatment Algorithms
- Clinician Competencies for Sexual Health
- Common Myths about Female Sexual Health
- Sex Therapy for Non-Sex Therapists
- Talking With Patients About Sexuality and Sexual Health
- The Top 10 Things You Need to Know About Female Sexuality
Editorials and Guest Commentary Articles
To further disseminate outcomes to a wide variety of health care providers, ARHP will work with expert panelists, including co-chairs Michael Krychman, MD, and Susan Kellogg Spadt, PhD, CRNP, to publish meeting summaries and highlights in various peer-reviewed journals, professional publications, and web-based medical sites.
Outcomes from this meeting series will benefit all frontline health care providers, including physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurse midwives, pharmacists, therapists, educators, counselors, and other professionals. These health professionals may not be experts in sexual medicine, but are committed to providing quality patient care in sexual health and wellness and would greatly benefit from this information.
This program was made possible by grants from a consortium of funders, including Boehringer Ingelheim, Pfizer, and Wyeth Pharmaceuticals.
- Association of Reproductive Health Professionals and HealthyWomen. Women’s Sexual Health: Provider Survey. September 15-28, 2009.
About Dr. Kate Gundy MD