What do international students want to know about sexual and reproductive health?

Mrs Maddison Stratten1, Dr Limin Mao2, Mrs Carolyn Slattery3, Mr Priyadi Prihaswan4

1HARP Unit, Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District, Wollongong, Australia, 2Centre for Social Research in Health UNSW  , Sydney, Australia, 3NSW STI Programs Unit, Sydney, Australia, 4HARP Unit, South Eastern Sydney Local Health District, Sydney, Australia

International students identify health literacy as a challenge and a key barrier to accessing sexual and reproductive health (SRH) while studying in Australia. Current literature also identifies a need for tailored, accurate and reliable online SRH information for international students. To meet this need, the STI Programs Unit (STIPU) established a multidisciplinary consortium consisting of representatives from private and public agencies. The consortium were successful in obtaining a Study NSW partner’s grant to develop and launch a SRH website (hub) for international students in NSW. To ensure the hub’s content, look and tone were appropriate and met the needs of the target group, consultations with international students was required.

Online consultations were conducted with 186 NSW based international students with diverse demographics. The consultation focused on three key areas; knowledge, attitudes and perceptions, and health seeking practices, beliefs and preferences.

Participants described their level of SRH knowledge as average (54%), identifying STIs, cost and the Australian health system as topics of importance. International student’s attitudes around; perceived SRH meanings, peer influence, role modelling and peer norms regarding relationships, pornography, sex and sexuality were collected and considered in the content development of the hub. International students found SRH information through websites (55%) and identified important characteristics such as trustworthy, scientific, friendly and respectful. This further validates the value of the development the hub.

The consultation data will inform the international student SRH hub’s content and design. In addition, results will inform future work required to address identified gaps.

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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