Chair in sexual health a good start

Hopefully, others will follow the University’s leadership in this under-researched field.

Last week the University announced the nation’s first endowed chair for sexual health. The announcement not only benefits the University’s Program in Human Sexuality, which provides research, education and patient care, but is also a step forward in understanding sexual well-being. Because sexual health is an under-researched area, the University’s decision is a particularly wise one.

Statistics support the necessity for such a position. Half of men over age 40 suffer some form of erectile dysfunction. Human papillomavirus, which can turn into genital warts, is the most widespread sexually transmitted infection in the United States, comprising 20 million cases.

A quarter of all Americans will experience a sexually transmitted infection according to the American Social Health Association. The Advocates for Youth and the Alan Guttmacher Institute claim half of all young Americans will get a sexually transmitted disease by the age of 25. According to the United Nations Population Fund, sexual and reproductive health care account for around one-fifth of worldwide illness and premature death as well as one-third of the deaths of women of reproductive age.

The numbers are startling. Given the lack of research in the area, sexual health is clearly not studied as much as it should be. Research is especially lacking in areas of environmental effects on sexual health. Common chemicals have been increasingly linked to prostate, testicular and reproductive tract cancer. Average sperm counts have decreased over the past decade.

There is considerable enthusiasm for the chair. Already, 260 donors have pledged more than $1 million to the chair. Hopefully, the University will become a leader in sexual health research – not a small or irrelevant achievement – and other institutions, nation and worldwide, will follow our leadership.