1. What is a community, or how do you define something as a community?
Although a community was traditionally thought of as having a geographical base, it can really be any group of people with some sort of common characteristic.
2. What are the major characteristics of a healthy community or what a healthy community looks like?
My passions and interests lie in developing sexually healthy communities. A sexually healthy community would be one in which we understand our bodies, and learn about how reproductive and sexual organs work in the same way that we learn about our hearts and lungs and stomachs. A sexually healthy community would be one in which families and caregivers know how to teach appropriate care for genitalia, in addition to bathing, hand washing, and nose blowing. A sexually healthy community is one in which discussing sex is not taboo, shocking, or offensive. A sexually healthy community creates an environment in which STDs and STIs are lessened, people are generally healthier, and sexual dysfunctions are cared for instead of hidden. A sexually health community understands the concepts of consent and deals with rape and assault seriously.
3. Then what are things like now, in that community you have talked about above?
We live in a society saturated by sex – it’s used to sell hamburgers, for goodness’ sake! We don’t stop talking and joking about sex, watching movies filled with it, singing songs about it. However, we are not a sexually healthy society. Ohio does not require schools to have sexual health education, and misinformation abounds in many homes, passed down over the years with nobody to correct it. Common misinformation, that can have serious ramifications, include people thinking a woman can’t get pregnant if she has sex during her period, or that douches or “feminine washes” are good for vaginal health. Illnesses such as endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome go undiagnosed for years because women and doctors do not often recognize the symptoms, and in the meantime, more funding goes to additional medications for erectile dysfunction. Rape and assault are often excused and the victims discredited or disbelieved.
4. What health organizations and agencies are currently working on community health or the health issues in the community?
Planned Parenthood is certainly a better-known organization working for sexual health care and education. Due to the ethical debate surrounding abortion, however, much of their other resources go unnoticed. The Ohio Department of Health made grants to many health departments and agencies across the state to start Reproductive Health and Wellness programs. There are growing numbers of organizations dedicated to raising awareness of and funding research for various reproductive health issues.
5. What kinds of things can be done further to make a difference?
I think that, in schools in particular, there is a huge lack of sexual health information. Many families feel it is not the schools’ place to teach their children about sex. I think that if we were to begin to introduce the idea of genitalia health information, as opposed to capital-S “Sex Ed,” it would give a place to start. . I would like families to see there is a difference between teaching kids about SEX and teaching them about their own bodies and how to care appropriately for themselves. I think community workshops should be offered to teach parents how to teach their children about sex and sexual health. If we continue to just ignore the subject, we just further the cycle of ignorance.
6. If you are in a position to take action what will be your first priority thing to do towards building such an ideal healthy community?
I currently run a small business that provides sexual health information resources in addition to selling reproductive health greeting cards. I hold social events quarterly as a time to come together and ask questions, learn about, and discuss women’s health and sexual health in a judgment-free environment. My goal is to turn it into a brick-and-mortar location that is a bookstore and resource center for sexual and reproductive health and wellness information. I would love to eventually be able to offer school districts free sexual health and wellness workshops