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Sexual health work in a playground: Lessons learnt from the evaluation of a small-scale sexual health project
  1. Paula Baraitser, MBBS, MFFP, Senior Clinical Medical Officer1,
  2. Frances Dolan, SRN, HV, FP Cert, Sexual Health Outreach Worker1,
  3. Rayah Feldman, BA, DPhil, Senior Lecturer2 and
  4. Sarah Cowley, BA, PhD, Professor of Community Practice Development3
  1. Department of Reproductive Health, Community Health South London NHS Trust, St Giles Hospital, London, UK
  2. Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, South Bank University, London, UK
  3. Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery, Kings College London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence Paula Baraitser, SCMO, Department of Reproductive Health, Community Health South London NHS Trust, St Giles Hospital, St Giles Road, Camberwell, London SE5 7RN, UK. Email: Paula.Baraitser{at}


Objective To evaluate a sexual health outreach programme in an adventure playground.

Design A qualitative approach to evaluation is appropriate for a sexual health project where outcomes are unpredictable, difficult to define in numerical terms and the small scale of the intervention means that an impact on indices such as teenage pregnancy rates is unlikely. The data collection techniques used were the outreach worker's diary, questionnaires and interviews with youth workers, and a focus group with young people.

Results Work in young people's leisure space requires flexible working in disrupted environments and a responsive approach to diverse individual needs. The outreach worker successfully engaged boys and girls in sexual health discussions. As a result of the project, youth workers' confidence in discussing sexual health issues and ability to refer to the clinic increased.

Conclusion Clinical staff providing a sexual health outreach service for young people offer a knowledge of sexual health and local clinical services and an opportunity to build positive relationships between clinics and local community organisations. The relationships help youth workers to raise sexual health issues with young people and to refer problems appropriately. Clinical staff doing outreach work may require additional skills to work in young people's leisure space, for example, the ability to negotiate the content of sessions and to tolerate disruption.

A qualitative approach to evaluation effectively documents a range of project outcomes, including those which were unforeseen and which could not have been documented through the collection of numerical data. It also provides a detailed description of the process of project implementation, which aids replication.

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