Exploring the wider societal impacts of sexual health issues and interventions to build a framework for research and policy: a qualitative study based on in-depth semi-structured interviews with experts in OECD member countries

L. Schnitzler, A.T.G. Paulus, T.E. Roberts, S.M.A.A. Evers, L.J. Jackson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


ObjectivesSexual health is a complex public health challenge and can generate wide-ranging health, social and economic impacts both within and beyond the health sector (ie, intersectoral costs and benefits). Methods are needed to capture these intersectoral impacts in economic studies to optimally inform policy/decision-making. The objectives of this study were (1) to explore the different intersectoral costs and benefits associated with sexual health issues and interventions, (2) to categorise these into sectors and (3) to develop a preliminary framework to better understand these impacts and to guide future research and policy.DesignA qualitative study based on in-depth semi-structured online interviews.SettingOECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) member countries.ParticipantsProfessionals with expertise in the field of sexual health including clinicians, medical practitioners, sexologists, researchers, professionals working for international governmental or non-governmental health (policy) organisations and professionals involved in implementation and/or evaluation of sexual health interventions/programmes.MethodsSampling of participants was undertaken purposively. We conducted in-depth semi-structured online interviews to allow for a systemic coverage of key topics and for new ideas to emerge. We applied a Framework approach for thematic data analysis.Results28 experts were interviewed. Six themes emerged from the interviews: (1) Interconnections to other areas of health (ie, reproductive health, mental health), (2) Relationships and family, (3) Productivity and labour, (4) Education, (5) Criminal justice/sexual violence, (6) Housing, addiction and other sectors. The findings confirm that sexual health is complex and can generate wide-ranging impacts on other areas of health and other non-health sectors of society.ConclusionThese different sectors need to be considered when evaluating interventions and making policy decisions. The preliminary framework can help guide future research and policy/decision-making. Future research could explore additional sectors not covered in this study and expand the preliminary framework.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2023


  • health economics
  • health policy
  • public health
  • HIV & AIDS
  • sexual medicine
  • HIV

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