From the Journals

Does cultural tailoring of sexual health programs lead to safer behavior?



Among Hispanic adolescents, sexual health interventions have a small but significant effect on improving safe sexual behavior, including abstinence, condom use, and number of sex partners, a meta-analysis of 12 studies suggests.

Furthermore, cultural tailoring may contribute to a program’s success, the data indicate.

“It is important that culturally tailored sexual health programs be available to Hispanic communities across the United States,” the study authors stated in Pediatrics.

To examine the effects of sexual health interventions on behavioral outcomes among Hispanic adolescents and factors that may influence the success of an intervention, Reina Evans, a doctoral student in the department of psychology at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, and colleagues systemically reviewed published studies that included Hispanic adolescents in the United States. Included studies evaluated a sexual health intervention using an experimental or quasiexperimental design and assessed a behavioral outcome.

The researchers synthesized effect sizes from 12 studies that included 4,673 Hispanic adolescents. “As the indicator of effect size, the standardized mean difference, Cohen’s d, was used,” they said. Effect size was interpreted as small at 0.20, medium at 0.50, and large at 0.80.

Sexual health interventions improved abstinence (d = 0.15), condom use (d = 0.44), number of sex partners (d = –0.19), and sexual health knowledge (d = 0.40), compared with control conditions.

Eight of the 12 interventions incorporated Hispanic-specific practices and values such as familialism into the intervention materials. Culturally tailored interventions produced greater change in condom use, compared with interventions that were not culturally tailored. One intervention with a large effect on condom use was developed by researchers in collaboration with community members, the authors said. Another program with a large effect on condom use was designed for Hispanic families.

Ten of the 12 studies included males and females, and two included only females. Intervention dose ranged from less than 10 hours of program content to more than 20 hours of content.

Definitions of abstinence and time frames for reporting recent condom use varied across studies, the researchers noted. Data about patient characteristics, such as the percentage of participants born in the United States, and pregnancy outcomes were limited. These domains could be areas of future research.

“Latinx adolescents are disproportionately burdened with unplanned pregnancy and STIs [sexually transmitted infections]. In this meta-analysis, it is shown that sexual health interventions can play a role in combating these health disparities,” Ms. Evans and associates said.

Among Hispanic adolescents, persistent disparities in sexual and reproductive health “remain a national public health priority,” and “strengthening the effects of future ... interventions for Hispanic adolescents is needed,” said Vincent Guilamo-Ramos, PhD, MPH, and colleagues in an accompanying editorial. Dr. Guilamo-Ramos is a professor of social work and director and founder of the Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health at New York University.

“Evans et al. highlighted that reporting on the foreign-born participant proportions was incomplete across studies, thereby excluding this clinical heterogeneity domain from formal moderation analyses,” said Dr. Guilamo-Ramos and colleagues. People who develop Hispanic sexual and reproductive health interventions may consider whether this domain or other domains moderate intervention effectiveness.

Although sensitivity analyses focused on several potential sources of bias, “other domains of potential methodologic heterogeneity, such as refusal bias, differential attrition, or information bias, remained unaccounted for,” they said.

“Attention to clinical, methodologic, and statistical heterogeneity across studies can yield insights into factors associated with bolstering intervention effectiveness. Cultural tailoring to increase the effectiveness of condom interventions for Hispanic adolescents is one such intervention effect modifier,” Dr. Guilamo-Ramos and associates concluded.

The study authors had no relevant financial disclosures. The research was supported by the Doug Kirby Adolescent Sexual Health Research Grant from the Rural Center for AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Disease Prevention, Indiana University School of Public Health–Bloomington, and the Center for Family and Community Engagement, North Carolina State University. The editorialists are supported by the William T. Grant Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. In addition, Dr. Guilamo-Ramos has received grants and personal fees from ViiV Healthcare outside the submitted work and serves as a member of the U.S. Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS and as the vice chair of the board of directors of the Latino Commission on AIDS. His coauthors had no relevant financial disclosures.

SOURCES: Evans R et al. Pediatrics. 2020 Jun 10. doi: 10.1542/peds.2019-3572; Pediatrics. 2020 Jun 10. doi: 10.1542/peds.2020-1406.

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