International students connecting with a sexual health and relationships information kit

Mrs Maddison Stratten1, Dr Catherine MacPhail2

1HARP Unit, Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District, Wollongong, Australia, 2University of Wollongong, Wollongong, Australia

Diverse cultural backgrounds and life experiences impact international students’ knowledge and understanding of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and what constitutes healthy relationships in the Australian context. Students feel ill equipped to navigate sexual relationships in cultures different to their own.

This pilot project aimed to increase opportunities for international students to access accurate and reliable sexual health information including; healthy relationships, safer sex practices and sexually transmissible infections (STIs). We conducted 28 interviews with international students to explore SRH knowledge and access to accurate information. Key concerns included navigating cultural differences in knowledge and information, accessing SRH information and services, and uncertainty about appropriate sexual behaviours in the Australian context. Based on these findings, we developed a Sexual Health and Relationships Kit and worked with students to evaluate its suitability and acceptability. The Kit consists of information cards on sexual health and healthy relationships, a male and a female condom.

To evaluate The Kit we conducted three focus groups with culturally diverse international students in the Illawarra region. International students expressed their appreciation of The Kit. Feedback focused on improving elements of the design, information included and accessibility. Particularly, students requested design improvements for durability, more referral links to reliable online resources, and relatable content through frequently asked questions.

The results of this evaluation were used to refine the initial prototype and The Kits are now in circulation through a local university, local health district and community groups. Further online innovations are planned to increase accessibility and scalability.

Maddison Stratten is a health promotion officer with the HIV and Related Programs (HARP) unit in the Illawarra/ Shoalhaven. Maddy has a Bachelor in Public Health major in Health Promotion (UOW), Master of International Public Health (USYD), and a passion for breaking down barriers, empowering marginalised communities and promoting a positive approach to health. As a co-leader for NSW Playsafe Programs International Students, Maddy has enjoyed developing resources and education sessions for international students. Maddy is interested in working alongside the CALD community to connect people with consistent messages around safer sex and healthy relationships.

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