Sexual health in the Over Forty-Fives
Priority AxisTechnological and Social Innovation
Lead partnerThe Health and Europe Centre
Project budget3 597 012 €
ERDF amount2 158 207 €
Studies in/beyond Europe (eg WHO’s Sexual Health Throughout Life) highlight the need for older people to have better access to sexual health support/care. These identify that older age groups are rarely a focus in European & domestic policies across the 2Seas area. The correlation is clear between this gap in services & the rise in Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) rates. The over-45s at risk are generally those entering new sexual relationships after a period of monogamy, often post-menopause (removing the issue of pregnancy, without thought to STIs). Our engagement with relevant services suggests lack of knowledge/tools for health services approaching the issue and offering information/treatment. Within this target group, partner research has shown that groups with one or more socio-economic disadvantages (homeless people/sex workers/non-native language speakers/migrants) are at even greater risk of being unaware of their sexual health and unable to access the appropriate services
The objective of the project is to empower people aged over 45 to participate in sexual health services & improve their sexual health & wellbeing, with an additional and specifically adapted focus on socio-economically disadvantaged groups across the 2Seas area. The empowerment will avoid assumption by using insight gathering & testing existing evidence. In co-creating a service redesign, the healthcare systems currently in place will be adapted to provide services that are properly suited to these groups. Consequently, SHIFT will improve awareness in the target groups and access to sexual health services, therefore increasing wellbeing, testing for STIs and HIV & avoidance of undiagnosed communicable STIs & HIV amongst the over 45s and socio-economically disadvantaged groups. This will lead to improving the quality of life of people aged over 45 (with specific focus on vulnerable groups) & a decrease in health inequalities.
- A co-created & piloted model for future service provision to improve sexual health amongst the target groups, including techniques for engaging with hard-to-reach groups. A first model will be designed for people aged over 45. SHIFT will use a confidential web-based process to self-assess/be advised on next steps, but co-creation will ensure those less at ease with technology are fully engaged with the model. Using PPs 4&8 expertise, and by identifying organisations who work directly with socio-economically disadvantaged groups, the model will be adapted to reach these groups. Mobile units will access homeless people and others who do not/cannot access local public health services. Services will be multilingual and culturally/subject sensitive to reach groups such as migrants and sex workers.
- A jointly produced & piloted training programme relevant to all parts of the 2Seas area, based on extensive engagement with healthcare professionals, implemented via existing services.
Cross border approach
Policies across the 2Seas area focus on continued, successful awareness-raising amongst young people but very few services are aimed at over 45s taking their needs into account. Articles/ policy in all 4 countries show a lack of attention to older adults & the problems they face. The whole 2Seas area has high rates of immigration, & homelessness is present everywhere, particularly amongst migrant communities. As individual countries have failed to get to grips with this issue, shared practice will be the most effective way to tackle it. Partners will bring together their wide range of knowledge, experience & skills to address this, as each country’s partners have specific expertise without which SHIFT cannot achieve its results. SHIFT will revolve around co-creation/development, with intense cross-border co-operation at every stage, ensuring the drive and joint working necessary to deliver the new model for addressing sexual health with our target groups.
SHIFT partners began 2020 in high spirits, after higher than expected engagement from potential target group members than anticipated in late 2019. Steps were taken, notably at meetings in February, to move forward with the Focus Group phase. Unfortunately, COVID hit soon after, and UK and NL partners were almost entirely diverted onto COVID related work, which has been the case much of the time since, and is again at the time of writing. This dramatically impacted the delivery of WPs 1 and 2, although in the summer and autumn, contingencies to approach the work differently led to renewed successes in engaging with people. WP3 was able to advance up to a point, as it is led by academic partners in Belgium - but input from UK/NL partners could not always be gathered. Evaluation and Communication continue to do well as far as circumstances permit - and a combination of the two led to UK and international media attention to the issue of Sexual Health in the over-45s towards the end of 2020, a considerable success! The project gained airtime on television (including CNN internationally) as well as in the Daily Mail and other UK newspapers/their websites, and top US political website The Hill. This level of international coverage is rare for a project on this theme, and is part of the reason we wanted to run SHIFT, to raise awareness and have people take relevant action.
Partners have further noted the following highlights of the year:
- Rich survey responses, and numerous detailed follow-up interviews, including with homeless people
- Increase coherence in the development of the WP1 Model and WP2 adaptations of it
- Social media campaigns, with considerable interest
- Live online event hosted by METRO with other partners participating
- Continued great joint working between all partners