Supporting Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights Through Innovative Research Approaches

Journal of Adolescent Health
March 2019 Volume 64, Issue 3, p283-418

Supporting Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights Through Innovative Research Approaches
Devon J. Hensel
Published in issue: March 2019
International health care governing bodies define the ability to achieve and maintain sexual and reproductive health (SRH) as a fundamental human right [1, 2, 3]. This rights-based paradigm places at its core—for individuals of all ages but especially for adolescents and young adults [4]—the ability to access accurate SRH-focused information and education, as well as to receive developmentally appropriate, SRH-focused preventative counseling and clinical care [5, 6]. A rights-based framework also both recognizes that many young people face multiplicative barriers to adequate care based on social or economic factors (e.g., gender-based, race-based, or sexual identity–based discrimination, poverty, residential instability, migration, military conflict) [7, 8, 9]. As health professionals who operate in a political environment that continually threatens the well-being of young people, we are well aware that both marginalized and disenfranchised youth experience the greatest problems every day to obtaining SRH services [10] and suffer the highest cumulative burden of downstream consequences in adulthood when SRH care needs are not met [11, 12]. Now more than ever, we must double down on our efforts to be front-line defenders of adolescent and young adult SRH rights. Such active stewardship requires us to pay careful attention—as clinicians, as educators and as researchers—and continually commit ourselves to engaging in evidence-based approaches that highlight how and when interlocking sources of disadvantage create unique vulnerabilities in young people’s access to SRH [13].

One way in which we expand our evidence base in ways consistent with a sexual rights perspective is choosing data analysis techniques that are deliberately intended to model the overlap in factors known to create obstacles to SRH [14, 15]. In this issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health, Hill et al. [16] provide an important application of these principles, using latent class analysis (LCA) to identify how syndemic patterns—or clusters of co-occurring behavioral, socioeconomic, and environmental factors [17, 18, 19]—interact to increase vulnerability to sexually transmitted infection (STI) among young adults in the United States…