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Cantabrians Develop Relationships And Sexuality Educational App For Youth Of Aotearoa

A mobile app providing sex, sexuality, relationship, gender, and identity education for young Kiwis, aged 13 to 24, is under development at the University of Canterbury. Faculty of Health lecturer Tracy Clelland, Masters student Cate Mentink, and health educator Jessica McQuoid are the driving force behind the app called Te Puāwaitanga: Beyond the Birds and the Bees.

“Te Puāwaitanga will be a one-stop shop for young people for resources on relationships, sex and sexuality. In addition to quality written content, it'll be an interactive app with features like flip cards and quizzes, as well as questions to prompt their thinking,” says Jessica.

“There's nothing like this in Aotearoa, and we're hoping that it will help to support and further extend relationship and sexuality education in this country.”

The project began in 2020 with Masters student Cate Mentink completing focus groups with young people. The results showed that youth struggled to find quality, reliable information about sex, relationships, and sexuality. “They told us an app is what they wanted,” says Cate.

“In particular, it was highlighted that relationship and sexuality education has not been meeting the needs of our Māori and Pasifika rangatahi,” says Cate.

With funding from KiwiNet and Canterbury Primary Health Organisation, Pegasus Health, a working prototype has now been developed. The next step is to take this to young people to get their feedback and involve them in further co-development.

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Irihāpeti Mahuika, Director of Hauora Māori and Equity at Pegasus Health, has a background in teaching and a passion for ensuring health education is accessible and in a form that young people are going to use.

“We’re so pleased to be able to contribute to the work Tracy and Jessica are doing,” says Irihāpeti.

For young people where social interaction is at the centre of their world, access to good health information is increasingly important.

“Te Puāwaitanga is an opportunity for our general practice teams to have something to refer our young people to,” says Irihāpeti.

The app is due to launch in November 2022, however difficulties sourcing further funding could put development at risk.

“We’re collaborating with youth health organisations and young people for content, but there’s still a long way to go. Extra funding ensures we get the best content in the hands of our young people as soon as possible,” says Tracy.

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