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Adolescents and sex: the handbook for professionals working with young people
  1. C Grayson

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Edited by Sarah Bekaert. Oxford: Radcliffe Publishing Limited, 2005, £21.95, pp 200. ISBN 1 85775 880 3

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This book has been written primarily for health professionals as a guide to setting up young people’s clinics, but it actually provides more than that. Anyone who comes into contact with young people within their work will find this easy to read book full of helpful practical suggestions about how to make any service “young person friendly”. Each chapter is well referenced and there is an extensive web based list of resources making this book an excellent teaching aid.

The initial chapter provides a summary of some of the issues surrounding adolescence and the physiological and psychological changes which occur during this time. This leads on to a chapter on how to engage young people, and covers some very useful tips on the initial groundwork required and the consultation needed before setting up a service for young people. The importance of confidentiality is highlighted and continues as a main theme as one would expect throughout the book. The legal issues involved in working with this age group has a dedicated chapter and covers the aspect of consent within the current legal and child protection framework, and is particularly helpful.

Teenage pregnancy is discussed in the context of the government’s teenage pregnancy strategy, and the long term social implications of teenage pregnancy are described. The key role of the health professional in providing sexual health information, education, and easy access to services is highlighted, with some examples of good current practice from different areas of the country. The style of writing in the chapter on young people and contraception appears out of keeping with the rest of the book as it is written in a very basic way, assuming little underlying knowledge. This information could however be used directly with the young people as a teaching resource, and it helpfully looks at some of the common myths surrounding contraception.

There has been a huge increase in the rates of sexually transmitted infections, particularly among young people, and within the book there is a chapter looking at the reasons behind this as well as some ways in which this can be addressed when planning sexual health services. There follows a description of the different sexually transmitted diseases, including symptoms and treatment; it is written in a way that again could be used directly with young people.

A particularly helpful chapter is the one covering marginalised groups, and there is an excellent section on working with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender young people. Towards the end of the book there is a definitive guide to setting up a young persons’ clinic, giving a step by step approach to establishing a service. Finally, there is chapter on planning sexual health outreach work and an example of a lesson plan which would be particularly helpful for anyone involved in delivering “sex and relationships education”.

The sexual health of young people is unlikely to improve until we can feel confident in talking openly with adolescents about their sexual health and contraception needs and have easily accessible services. This book provides an excellent practical guide to this end.