Clarity, conviction and coherence supports buy-in to positive youth sexual health services: focused results from a realist evaluation

SHEARN, Katie, PIERCY, Hilary, ALLMARK, Peter and HIRST, Julia (2019). Clarity, conviction and coherence supports buy-in to positive youth sexual health services: focused results from a realist evaluation. BMC Health Services Research, 19, p. 503.

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Background: There is a call for sexual health services to support young people achieve sexual wellbeing in addition to treating or preventing sexual ill-health. Progress towards realising this ambition is limited. This study aimed to contribute theory and evidence explaining key processes to support local delivery of positive youth sexual health services. Methods: A realist evaluation was conducted, comprising four research cycles, with a total of 161 data sources, primarily from the UK. Theory was refined iteratively using existing substantive theories, secondary and primary research data (including interviews, documentary analysis, feedback workshops and a literature search of secondary case studies). A novel explanatory framework for articulating the theories was utilised. Results: The results focused on local level buy-in to positive services. Positive services were initiated when influential teams had clarity that positive services should acknowledge youth sexuality, support young people's holistic sexual wellbeing and involve users in design and delivery of services, and conviction that this was the best or right way to proceed. How positive services were operationalised differed according to whether the emphasis was placed on meeting service objectives or supporting young people to flourish. Teams were able to effect change in local services by improving coherence between a positive approach and existing processes and practices. For example, that a) users were involved in decision making, b) multi-disciplinary professional working was genuinely integrated, and c) evidence of positive services' impact was gathered from a breadth of sources. New services were fragile. Progress was frequently stymied due to a lack of shared understanding and limited compatibility between characteristics of a positive approach and the wider cultural and structural systems including medical hegemony and narrow accountability frameworks. These challenges were exacerbated by funding cuts. Conclusions: This study offers clarity on how positive youth sexual health services may be defined. It also articulates theory explaining how dissonance, at various levels, between positive models of sexual health service delivery and established cultural and structural systems may restrict their successful inception. Future policy and practice initiatives should be theoretically informed and address barriers at societal, organisational and interpersonal levels to stimulate change.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Realist; Programme theory; Sexual health; Young people; Organisational change; Organisational change; Programme theory; Realist; Sexual health; Young people; Health Policy & Services; 1117 Public Health and Health Services; 0807 Library and Information Studies
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Page Range: p. 503
SWORD Depositor: Symplectic Elements
Depositing User: Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited: 20 Aug 2019 10:33
Last Modified: 20 Aug 2019 10:33

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