ARCHIVED - Canadian Guidelines for Sexual Health Education


Conclusion, Appendix A, and Appendix B


The aim of these Guidelines is to unite and guide professionals working in the area of sexual health education and health promotion, with a particular emphasis on curriculum and program planners, policy-makers, educators (in and out of school settings) and health professionals.

The complexities related to developing education curricula and programs can be daunting. Developing curricula and programs related to sexual health education can add another level of complexity as a result of the sensitivities associated with discussions of sexuality. While the Guidelines do not attempt to be a stand-alone document for those wishing to develop sexual health education curricula and programs, the Guidelines do offer a framework for the development of effective, comprehensive and inclusive sexual health education.

While this document presents a great deal of information, there are three keys points that provide the critical foundation for the Guidelines. These foundational principles are:

  1. Inclusivity – sexual health education must be inclusive of the population it is targeting. The target population will rarely be a homogeneous group. Account for intra-group diversity and differing health needs.
  2. Evidence-based – Sexual health education should be grounded in a theoretical model that is applicable to the subject and target population being served. The most appropriate model will need to be used in order to meet the needs of the target population.
  3. Evaluation – Ensure that an evaluation mechanism is included into program planning and curriculum development. Check to ensure that this mechanism is able to evaluate the intended goals and identifies areas that need to be addressed and changed to achieve the desired results. Continual evaluation, refl ection and modification are the hallmarks of a successful health education program.

Appendix A

The information provided below offers sample criteria that can be used in assessing or revising programs consistent with the Guidelines.

Examples of Criteria to use in Assessing Programs in Relation to the Guidelines’ Principles

The sexual health education activity, program or policy integrates the philosophy of sexual health education presented in the Guidelines.


  • Work with individuals to assess their personal and primary needs where sexual health and sexuality are concerned.
  • Communicate with individuals to assess how their age, race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background, physical/cognitive abilities and religious background form their views about sexual health and sexuality and how these views infl uence and affect their behaviour.
  • Understand the central underlying issues associated with the above factors in order to assist program planners, policy-makers and educators in creating and implementing effective, targeted programs and services that will help to prevent negative outcomes and bring about positive behavioural change.

The sexual health education activity, program or policy promotes accessibility for all, as suggested by the Guidelines.


  • Work in partnership and form linkages with federal, provincial, territorial and community organizations to pool funds and resources in order to ensure the coordinated development of effective, targeted sexual health education programs, policies or activities. Identify ways to bring people together to meet funding requirements.
  • Build up the systems of supporters and users of the Guidelines and develop discussion papers that will be the subject of national debate on the future of sexual health education.
  • Build on and improve access to sexual health education, for example, by making sexual health education learning tools available through the Internet and alternative media (e.g., to target youth).
  • Educate practitioners on how to understand and use the Guidelines to ensure that the target population benefi ts from its key messaging.

The sexual health education activity, program or policy is suffi ciently comprehensive in terms of the integration, coordination and breadth suggested by the Guidelines.


  • Comprehensiveness refers to the information, motivation, and behavioural skills content of sexual heath education. For example, “information only” may not be enough to motivate persons to act and equip them with the needed skills to act effectively.
  • Determine where sexual health education overlaps with related programs and integrate sexual health education into these areas. For example, sexual health education can be provided as a component of biology, psychology, sociology, anthropology, family studies, religious studies, personal and social development courses. These programs can be targeted and delivered at the primary, secondary and post-secondary levels.
  • Partner with health care professionals, parents, and student organizations to create effective sexual health education programs and services in community, educational and clinical settings.

The sexual health education activity, program or policy incorporates effective and sensitive educational approaches and methods as suggested in the Guidelines.


  • Work strategically with partners to defi ne a shared vision and to identify the main objectives, recognizing and respecting the various ethnic, cultural, social and economic needs of others; provide opportunities to learn from each other.
  • Collaborate with provinces, territories and community organizations to identify the key elements/topics of the program area.
  • Engage parents and young people in the developmental process by informing them about the benefi ts of effective sexual health education and the maintenance of sexual health and healthy living. Encourage their input to ensure that programs and services in this area are tailored to meet their needs.
  • Create innovative ways to involve peer leaders, identifi ed through key informants in the community, who will act as advocators of sexual health and healthy living. Also work in concert with community leaders and sexual health experts, as well as provincial and territorial offi cials to address any controversy that may arise from this issue.

The sexual health education activity, program or policy meets the expectations for training and administrative support suggested by the Guidelines.


  • Provide a comprehensive orientation guide for those who provide sexual health education. Contents of the guide should include:
    • expected knowledge and ability requirements,
    • directed and self-directed activities, and
    • learning and personal performance evaluation guidelines.
  • Ensure that job descriptions within the organization have clearly defi ned statements of qualifi cations which will help guide staff selection, interviewing and hiring processes to ensure that the selected person has a specifi c level of knowledge, skills and ability to provide sexual health education services.
  • Perform a formal evaluation of the professional development of educators on an annual basis, ensuring that in-service planning and professional development activities are based on the learning needs identifi ed through this evaluation process.
  • Include as part of the annual budget, funds to support on-going professional development and in-service training for those providing sexual health education. A specifi ed number of days per year should be allocated for specialized training and professional development in this area.
  • Include sexual health education as part of curriculum. Ensure that educational institutions have curricula in place to enable pre-sevice teachers as well as medical and nursing students to acquire the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to provide effective sexual health education. The curricula should be based upon, and evaluated according to the framework outlined in the Guidelines.

The sexual health education activity, program or policy incorporates the elements of planning, evaluation, updating and social development suggested by the Guidelines.


  • Engage and infl uence policy-makers in the developmental and evaluation processes.
  • Create ways to support the direct and active involvement of policy-makers, researchers and health care practitioners that will result in the advancement of sexual health education and the development of improved sexual health education programs and services.
  • Synthesize and share best practice models (nationally and internationally) for the development of effective sexual health education programs, simultaneously integrating research with policy and practice.
  • Develop more frequent and improved linkages by expanding the range of provincial, territorial and community-based partners and ensuring that key experts and stakeholders have direct input into the policy, planning, research and evaluation processes.
  • Create an Advisory Committee composed of members from the community, non-governmental organizations and from all levels of government to monitor and evaluate sexual health education programs on a regular basis to ensure that they are meeting the needs of the target audiences. Committee members should provide recommendations to modify programs when needed and provide an annual report on the status of sexual health education programs, services and activities (perhaps included as a part of a more comprehensive report or provincial/territorial educational measures and outcomes).

Appendix B

Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Terms and Defi nitions Reference Number 65-6765-67

This glossary of terms is a resource for individuals working in sexual health education and promotion. These terms may vary according to multiple sources and across cultures.

BISEXUAL: A person who is attracted physically and emotionally to both males and females.

COMING OUT: Often refers to “Coming out of the closet”–the act of disclosing one’s sexual orientation or gender identity (e.g., to friends, family members, colleagues).

GAY: A person who is physically and emotionally attracted to someone of the same sex. The word gay can refer to both males and females, but is commonly used to identify males only.

GENDER IDENTITY: A person’s internal sense or feeling of being male or female, which may or may not be the same as one’s biological sex.

HETEROSEXUAL: A person who is physically and emotionally attracted to someone of the opposite sex. Also commonly referred to as straight.

HOMOPHOBIA: Fear and/or hatred of homosexuality in others, often exhibited by prejudice, discrimination, intimidation, or acts of violence.

INTERNALIZED HOMOPHOBIA: A diminished sense of personal self-worth or esteem felt by an individual as a result of the experienced or presumed homophobia of others.

INTERSEXED: A person born with ambiguous sex characteristics that do not seem to conform to cultural or societal expectations of a distinctly male or female gender. For example, some intersexed individuals are born with the reproductive organs of both males and females or ambiguous genitalia. In some cases a person is not found to have intersex anatomy until he or she reaches puberty.


LGBTTQ: A commonly used acronym for the constellation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans-identifi ed, transsexual, two-spirited, and queer identities. Sexual minority is a synonymous term.

LESBIAN: A female who is attracted physically and emotionally to other females.

QUEER: Historically, a negative term for homosexuality. More recently, the LGBTTQ community has reclaimed the word and uses it as a positive way to refer to itself.

SEXUAL ORIENTATION: A person’s affection and sexual attraction to other persons, regardless of gender.

TRANSGENDER/ TRANS-IDENTIFIED: A person whose gender identity, outward appearance, expression and/or anatomy does not fi t into conventional expectations of male or female.

TRANSSEXUAL: A person who experiences intense personal and emotional discomfort with their assigned birth gender and may undergo treatment (e.g. hormones and/or surgery) to transition gender.

TWO-SPIRITED: Some Aboriginal people identify themselves as two-spirited rather than as bisexual, gay, lesbian or transgender. Historically, in many Aboriginal cultures, two-spirited persons were respected leaders and medicine people. Before colonization, two-spirited persons were often accorded special status based upon their unique abilities to understand both male and female perspectives.

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