Sexual Health: Threats and Opportunities


Course Objective

The aim of the course is to address sexual health in its larger
societal, medical and scientific context, and to discuss way in which
public health research and policy can contribute to better sexual health
of populations, communities and individuals. This involves learning
objectives related to theory, research methodology, health outcomes and
health services.

Learning objectives are:
1. Students can describe different theoretical perspectives used to
understand and investigate sexuality, including value systems across
cultures and communities, and identify these perspectives in sexual
health research approaches and practices;
2. Students can describe and explain patterns and trends in sexual
behavior of vulnerable social groups;
3. Students can describe and critically reflect on methodologies and
outcome measures used to investigate sexual health and sexual health
4. Students can discuss intervention strategies and priorities to
promote sexual health of communities, and can explain challenges
researchers, policy makers and practitioners face in planning and
implementing sexual health programs;
5. Students can formulate a qualitative or quantitative research
question into the field of sexual health, systematically collect
scientific literature, write a literature review in which they answer
their research question, and present their findings to their peers;
6. Students can seek out and synthesize different sources of knowledge
(scientific, cultural, experiential) to describe current challenges in
sexual health, en formulate recommendations for research, policy and

Course Content

Is female sexual dysfunction a medical condition, or a myth created by
pharmaceutical companies? How can we prevent unplanned pregnancies
among young girls, and STD’s among the elderly? Should men who have sex
with men be vaccinated for HPV? And how can we create a healthy work
environment for sex workers? These are only a few of the questions we
will be addressing in the course Sexual Health.

This course approaches sexual health from a public health perspective.
The course’s focus is oriented towards sexual health issues of
populations rather than that of individuals (Wellings et al, Sexual
Health. A Public Health Perspective, 2012). We will discuss sexual
health issues in their larger societal, scientific and individual
context, and explore ways in which aspects of identity and social
position play a role in vulnerability for ill sexual health. In
addition, we will think critically about ways in which academic
knowledge and methodology can be used to improve sexual health of
populations. Lectures and literature address specific sexual health
themes and topics, which will be further elaborated on in group

The course aims to give an overview of current insights and challenges
related to sexual health of populations, both at the research and policy
level. We will discuss how information about sexual health issues of
individuals and groups can be collected, and how research findings can
be translated into public health policy or even clinical guidelines. The
course is rooted in practice: during the course, students will be
actively exploring sexual health issues as they appear in cultural
outlets such as (social) media, but also be encouraged to reflect on
sexual health in their own environments.

The course is guided by the textbook Sexual Health. A Public Health
Perspective (2012). This book covers five main domains of sexual health
(Conceptual and theoretical aspects of sexual health, Sexual health
outcomes, Risk and vulnerability, Interventions to improve sexual
health, and Measuring and assessing sexual health status), each of which
will be discussed during this course.

Teaching Methods

The course consists of tutorials (1.45 minutes, on Mondays), seminars
(1.45 minutes, on Wednesdays), and lectures (on Wednesdays).

Each week, a new theme is introduced that corresponds to the textbook
chapters (i.e. Sexual Health. A Public Health Perspective (2012)).
Students are encouraged to actively participate in group discussions and
exchange scientific, cultural and individual perspectives. We will work
in a non-hierarchical setting, in which each individual’s contribution
is valued, and learning from each other is considered an essential
classroom asset.

Lectures center on sexual health topics in the context of a textbook
chapter. For instance, a lecture on HPV in the week about sexual health
outcomes, or a lecture on doing participatory research with sex workers
in the week about sexual health research methodology.

The tutorials and seminars center on elaboration and in-depth analysis
of the theme within its scientific, societal and individual context. In
the Monday sessions, a different group of students critically reviews
the required literature, and students work on their course assignments.
On Wednesday, students discuss current sexual health topics from a
research and policy perspective, elaborate on the information presented
in the textbook, and apply their knowledge to public health challenges.
Towards the end of the course, students receive feedback on their
assignments in the seminars.
Attendance: Lecture attendance is recommended. Tutorial and seminar
attendance is obligatory. If a student is absolutely unable to attend,
and alternative assignment should be made and handed in before the end
of the course.

Method of Assessment

The assessment of the course consists of four parts:
1. Literature review – group grade (40%)
2. Field assignment – individual pass/fail
3. Poster presentation – group grade pass/fail
4. Written exam on October 26, 2019 – individual grade (60%)

To complete the course, a minimum score of >5.5 for both the literature
review and the exam is required. The grades cannot be compensated. In
addition, the field assignment should be passed.

Assignment ‘literature review’
- Students collaborate in groups of two or three to write one shared
paper. Writing tasks should be shared equally among group members.
Assignment ‘field work’
- Based on their literature review research questions, students identify
a current sexual health issue currently receiving attention in society
(e.g. in the media, in health care or among their peers). They explore
this issue more in-depth by collecting contextual data (e.g. online,
through interviews or document analysis). Combined with their findings
and recommendations from the scientific literature review, they will
propose a follow-up plan, for instance a policy measure or research
project aimed at for instance NGO’s, (local) governments, target
communities, primary care organisations etc. Students present their
proposal by means of a poster.


The literature for this course consists of:
1. The book Sexual Health. A Public Health Perspective (edited by Kaye
Wellings, Kirstin Mitchell & Martine Collumbien). ISBN: 9780335244812.
2. Scientific articles: the articles and links to it are included in the
course Syllabus. The articles give more
in-depth information about the theme related to the lecture.

Target Audience

Target group for this minor course are students from FALW, Bio Medical
Sciences and other students eligible to participate in the Minor five
big issues of Health.

Additional Information

We may or may not always notice, but we live in a culture saturated with
sexuality. We see sex on roadside billboards and read about it in
newspapers and magazines. Sex flashes at us from television screens. We
discuss our sex lives and those of others in cafes, on sports courts and
at work, and sex jokes are part of the repertoire of many a comedian. In
our modern, wired societies, sexually explicit material can be easily
accessed on the internet. It is safe to say we cannot imagine our world
without sexuality.

Sexuality as an academic subject covers more than just the physical act
of having sex. When we talk about sexuality, we refer to a range of
issues pertaining to, for instance, the body, sexual identities,
orientations and expressions, sociocultural value systems, and
knowledge-producing organisations and institutions. Within the institute
of science, the study of human sexual life and relationships is called
sexology. American scientist Alfred Kinsey (1895 – 1956) is considered a
pioneer in the sexology field, and his work has markedly contributed to
our understanding of human sexuality – and how to research it.
Now a familiar term to many, sexual health as a discipline of study
emerged only after Kinsey completed his most famous work. Because sex
and sexuality are and remain important throughout the life course and
across cultures, sexual health is not confined to a particular life
stage, for instance the reproductive years, or to certain sociocultural
groups or identities. The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines sexual
health as a state of physical, mental and social well-being in relation
to sexuality. It requires a positive and respectful approach to
sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having
pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion,
discrimination and violence. ( This
definition emphasizes a positive approach towards sexuality and sexual
behaviour, positioning sexual health as a fundamental aspect of human
rights and highlighting the potential benefits of sexual activity, such
as emotional and physical pleasure, intimacy and individual expression.
However, definitions of sexual health that emerged during and after
periods marked by the rapid spread of sexually transmitted infections
(STI’s) such as HIV/AIDS have highlighted the threats of sexuality,
conceptualizing sexual health as, for instance, the absence of disease
and illness.

In this course, sexual health and its themes will be mainly approached
from a public health perspective. The focus is oriented towards sexual
health issues of populations rather than that of individuals (Wellings
et al, 2012). Different topics related to sexual health will be
discussed in more detail in order to come to a better understanding of
sexual health in its societal and scientific context. In addition, we
will address theories and methodologies of research into sexual health,
and examine implications of outcomes of such research for public health

Course instructors:
- Maaike Muntinga, PhD (course coordinator)
- Fijgje de Boer, PhD

Custom Course Registration

You have to register for the Minor Five Big Issues of Health.

General Information

Course Code AB_1034
Credits 6 EC
Period P1
Course Level 300
Language of Tuition English
Faculty Faculty of Science
Course Coordinator drs. M.E. Muntinga
Examiner drs. M.E. Muntinga
Teaching Staff dr. F. de Boer
drs. M.E. Muntinga

Practical Information

You need to register for this course yourself

Last-minute registration is available for this course.

Teaching Methods Study Group, Lecture