Project budget4 217 159 €
ERDF amount2 530 295 €
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 got off to a flying start in 2019, with all partners engaging with genuine enthusiasm, and a higher than usual shared commitment to the common goals of the project. The quality of cross-border collaboration is noteworthy. All partners met four times during 2019 - for the Initiation Meeting, one further Steering Group, and two sets of cross-border meetings - in three of the four countries. Experience and good practice from all of them was shared. These visits have inspired everyone involved, and are leading to lots of positive thinking about the next steps.
The first two WPs aim to create a Model (WP1) and a Strategy (WP2), in each case beginning with attitude surveys and focus groups. This work has progressed well, with participation targets exceeded. The meat of these WPs will follow in 2020 and beyond.
WP3 (Training Programme) has yet to start in earnest (as planned), the main work having been the identification of relevant professionals - but PPs have taken the time they've had together, to think beyond the immediate, to the longer term, so are well prepared for their next steps.
Evaluation - not a WP in its own right in SHIFT - is well-integrated, and PP6 is an integral part of all discussions, and a key co-ordinator alongside the Lead Partner and the Work Package leads.
Communication has also begun well - partly of necessity, linked to WP1/2 work, but also as some partners are well connected and able to promote project activity.
Partners have further noted the following, as their own highlights of the year:
- Gaining insight into sexual health services in other countries, and feeling positive about one's own provision;
- Positive bringing-together of providers and academics, which does not often otherwise happen;
- The opportunity to work with other groups (eg more vulnerable ones) than the job normally affords;
- The chance to speak to a wider, non-sexual health workforce about embedding sexual health in their work;
- The ability to engage a young person to work on this theme and develop their competences;
- Attendance at national events, and joining in with government initiatives