Making Newcastle a Sexually Healthy City

Councillor Kim McGuinness delivering the closing remarks at the Sexually Healthy City conference.
Councillor Kim McGuinness delivering the closing remarks at the Sexually Healthy City conference.

Making Newcastle a Sexually Healthy City

Newcastle City Council, Newcastle University, key NHS partners and organisations from the voluntary and community sector have come together to ask the question – what is a sexually healthy city?

The conference, held at Newcastle Civic Centre on 26th June, brought together over 150 representatives from services from across the city and attempted to redefine what it means to be a ‘sexually healthy city’.

Sexually Healthy City - Rosie

What makes a Sexually Healthy City? "Newcastle is rapidly changing, it’s a fantastic city with many communities that are wonderful, we need to be able to make sure we include them in conversations that we have around sexual health and also that they are part of decision making too” – Rosie from the Angelou Centre.

Posted by Our Newcastle, our great city on Wednesday, 27 June 2018

The event was described as an opportunity to take a fresh look at the collaborations across the city and improve sexual health for people living, studying or working in the city.

The question was designed to move away from the traditional, clinical definition of sexual health and look more holistically at the issue.

Attendees at the conference focused on a variety of different areas including safe relationships, body image and how the city can accept and embrace different sexual orientation.

Newcastle City Council focuses on a preventative approach to public health and believes that positive sexual health is built on the foundations of trusting relationships and positive communications. The new approach to a sexually healthy city needs to focus on the full life span and be centered around communities.

The World Health Organisation defines sexual health as –

‘…a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence. For sexual health to be attained and maintained, the sexual rights of all persons must be respected, protected and fulfilled’

Talks and presentations at the session came from organisations across the city, including –

  • Amanda Holmes – Learning Disability and Sexual Health Nurse
  • Jessica Burns – SRE (Sex Relationships Education) Outreach Lead – Teenage Kicks Team
  • Paula Rumney – Registered Nurse – New Croft Sexual Health Service
  • Rosie Lewis – Deputy Director & VAAWG Services Co-Ordinator, The Angelou Centre.

The conference was hosted by Professor Simon Forrest, an expert in sexual health and education.

Councillor Kim McGuinness, cabinet member for Culture, Sport and Public Health closed the event and said;

“It is important that we consider sexual health as something that can affect you physically, mentally and emotionally.

I am pleased this conference has offered services across the city a chance to come together with one shared ambition – to make Newcastle a Sexually Healthy City.

Residents experiencing damaging relationships and abuse because of their sexual orientation is simply unacceptable and we must create a city-wide culture that does not endorse this.

The conference has started a process of collaboration between organisations across the city, each of them is an important part of the jigsaw and can help Newcastle achieve its ambition of redefining what it means to be a Sexually Healthy City.”

Following the conference Newcastle City Council hopes to develop a vision for a Sexually Healthy City, a sustainable movement and change to the culture across the city.

The conference will start a process of change

There is a good history of excellent partnership work across the Newcastle, especially on issues such as teenage pregnancy, and the conference will increase the amount of service to service engagement taking place across the city.

Professor Simon Forrest from Newcastle University who has been involved in research, education and promotion of sexual health since the mid-1990s said;

“‘I have worked in sexual health promotion, education and research for over 25 years and think that Newcastle’s City Council inspired initiative to create a ‘Sexually Healthy City’ is a bold, brilliant and probably almost unique action which reflects the best way of making a difference to people’s lives in an area that matters.

“It is a privilege and pleasure to play a role, and to commit my contribution to what is envisaged as nothing less than the start of a social movement, galvanised and supported by the Public Health team.

“We are coming together at a time when we can show how concerted, collective, purposeful action can effect real positive change in people’s lives.

“We have already showed how this work can be effective across the city, the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy is evidence of this, and of course a strong research base which helps us to understand the needs of people across the life course in a world where sexual diversity is increasing.

“By forming the initiative around collaboration, serious engagement, and seeing sexual health as a right, we have the power and means to make Newcastle a place where people have the information, the support and the services that create the possibility of sexual health for all.”