News Release: School of Medicine

Oct. 3,  2008

Jane Fonda Center Awarded Ford Foundation Grant to Develop "Centering Sex Education"

Emory University School of Medicine Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics has been awarded a $500,000 grant from the Ford Foundation to pursue "Centering Sex Education" as part of the work conducted at its Jane Fonda Center.

The pendulum of sex education has swung widely and erratically over the last several decades, according to Melissa Kottke, MD, assistant professor in the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Emory University School of Medicine and director of the Jane Fonda Center. She says this has resulted in confusion and controversy and short-changed youth growing up in a society that bombards them with sexual stimuli. Current societal messages and disparate educational efforts generally fail to provide youth with the basic information they need to manage their sexual feelings and behaviors in healthy positive ways.

"Becoming a sexual human is evolutionary; however, becoming a healthy, responsible sexual human is not," says Kottke. "This grant allows us to refocus the topic of sex education back on today's youth and what they need to do to help themselves and their peers travel on safe and healthy pathways to sexual adulthood."

The center will seek youth counsel and advice, and include young people in a series of regional invitational meetings aimed at fostering interactions among groups interested in the reproductive health dilemmas that youth face today. Based on these discussions, the Jane Fonda Center will identify core content that is valuable in helping youth become healthy sexual adults. Its findings will be unveiled at a multi-disciplinary symposium on "Centering Sex Education," hosted by Emory University.

The Jane Fonda Center also will use the gathered information to identify and develop supportive strategies and language to mentor youth who are acting as advocates for sexuality-focused health education. A unique training retreat for 60 youth leaders and their mentors from around the country will conclude the project.

Emory's Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics, in partnership with its lead teaching hospital, Grady Memorial Hospital, has a long history of innovating programs regarding sexuality education, as well as engaging older teens as educators and role models.

"The Ford Foundation grant will build upon this strength by enabling the Jane Fonda Center to define the support needed for youth, both individually and as mentors for other youth, as they become biologically and psycho-socially mature," says Marion Howard, PhD, Marion Howard Chair in Adolescent Reproductive Health at Emory. "We've been given a wonderful opportunity by the Ford Foundation to come together and center sexuality education discussions. We hope ultimately this project will encourage others to put energies back on the youth and their needs in this area."

About the Jane Fonda Center:
The Jane Fonda Center at Emory University was created in 2000 with a lead gift from Jane Fonda. The mission of the Jane Fonda Center is to advance scientific knowledge about adolescence with an emphasis on adolescent reproductive health. The center seeks to disseminate information and strategies for risk reduction and healthy transitions to adulthood. It fulfills its mission by research, program and curriculum development and evaluation. 

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The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center of Emory University is an academic health science and service center focused on missions of teaching, research, health care and public service.

Learn more about Emory’s health sciences:
Blog: http://emoryhealthblog.com
Twitter: @emoryhealthsci
Web: http://emoryhealthsciences.org

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