ARCHIVED - Canadian Guidelines for Sexual Health Education



The first Canadian Guidelines for Sexual Health Education (Guidelines) were published in 1994 and were later revised in 2003. Both editions of the Guidelines were developed with the expertise of professionals in various areas of sexual health, including education, public health, women's issues, health promotion, medicine, nursing, social work, and psychology. The Guidelines are grounded on evidence-based research placed within a Canadian context.

The Canadian Guidelines for Sexual Health Education, 2008 Edition, is based on the 2003 Edition, however, comments from a national evaluation survey that was undertaken in Fall 2007 as well as input from external reviewers have been incorporated. Among other changes, these Guidelines have incorporated recent evidence-based literature and have been written using language that is more inclusive of Canada's diverse populations.


The Canadian Guidelines for Sexual Health Education would not exist without the efforts, knowledge and expertise of those involved in the development of the 1994 and 2003 editions. A complete list of the coordinators, working group members and contributors from all editions of the Guidelines can be found online at:

The Public Health Agency of Canada would like to acknowledge and thank the individuals who volunteered their time to review and contribute to the Canadian Guidelines for Sexual Health Education, 2008 edition.

possible through the valuable input provided by experts working in the field of sexual health education and promotion across Canada, including the members of the Sexual Health Working Group of the Joint Consortium for School Health.

In addition, the Public Health Agency of Canada would like to acknowledge the staff of the Sexual Health and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) Section, Centre for Communicable Diseases and Infection Control for their contribution to the revisions of this document.


Goals and Objectives of the Guidelines

Sexual health is a key aspect of personal health and social welfare that infl uences individuals across their lifespan. It is thus important that health promotion programs focusing on enhancing positive sexual health outcomes and reducing negative sexual health outcomes are available to all Canadians regardless of their age, race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background, physical/ cognitive abilities, religious background or other such characteristics.

One goal of the Guidelines is to guide the efforts of professionals working in the area of sexual health education and promotion. The Guidelines place particular emphasis on assisting curriculum and program planners, educators in and out of school settings, policy-makers, and health care professionals.

A second goal of the Guidelines is to offer clear direction to assist local, regional and national groups and government bodies concerned with education and health to develop and improve sexual health education policies, programs and curricula which address the diverse needs of all Canadians.

These Guidelines are designed to:

  1. Assist professionals concerned with the development and implementation of new and effective programs, services and interventions that reinforce behaviours that support sexual health and personal well-being.
  2. Provide a detailed framework for evaluating existing sexual health education programs, policies and related services available to Canadians.
  3. Offer educators and administrators a broader understanding of the goals and objectives of broadly based sexual health education.

How to Use the Guidelines

The Guidelines are not intended to provide specific curricula or teaching strategies. This document provides a framework that outlines principles for the development and evaluation of comprehensive evidence-based sexual health education. Guideline statements support each principle and provide the context for effective and inclusive sexual health education programs and policies in Canada.

Readers should begin by reviewing the section on Key Concepts. This section provides the foundation for the Guidelines and provides readers with a sense of how key concepts are defined..

The Exploring Sexual Health and Sexual Health Education section discusses and recognizes diverse viewpoints concerning the concept of sexual health, defines the goals of sexual health education and highlights the need to recognize and meet the diverse sexual health needs of various populations.

The Developing a Broad Framework for Sexual Health Education section explains how a common philosophy and clear guiding principles can be applied to programs designed to enhance sexual health and, in turn, assist in the avoidance and reduction of negative sexual health outcomes. The principles and strategies provided suggest steps that may be used for current and future program planning and policy development. The Checklists give individuals a tool they can use to review and evaluate their own sexual health programs. Action plans developed from such reviews can help identify gaps in services in order to improve the sexual health of Canadians.

The Theory and Research section of the Guidelines provides a brief summary of the key theoretical models pertaining to sexual health and suggests ways in which evidence-based research can be utilized in the development and updating of sexual health education curricula and programs. This section also demonstrates that curricula and programs based on well-tested theoretical models, such as the Information, Motivation and Behavioural Skills (IMB) Model, are most likely to achieve their intended outcomes.

Overall, the Guidelines discuss in detail the elements of an effective sexual health education program (see Figure 1). The Guidelines can assist in the planning, development, implementation and evaluation of sexual health education programs and initiatives that will help individuals gain the information, motivation and behavioural skills needed to achieve positive sexual health outcomes.

Individuals and Organizations Who May Benefi t from the Guidelines

At the individual level, those who may benefit from using the Guidelines include: health and educational policy-makers, curriculum developers, education researchers, teachers, school administrators, health care professionals, social workers, counsellors, therapists, community and public health personnel, parents, clergy, and all other individuals who are involved in the planning, delivery and evaluation of broadly based sexual health education.

At the organizational level, those who may benefit from using the Guidelines include: municipal, provincial/territorial and federal ministries and departments of health, education and children's and social services, public health units, community service agencies, schools, colleges, universities, group homes, youth-based agencies/organizations, sexual health and STI/HIV clinics, community health centres, religious and/or faith-based organizations, parent/teacher organizations, long-term care facilities and others involved in the planning, delivery and evaluation of broadly based sexual health education throughout the lifespan.

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