Barriers and enablers to sexual health service use among university students: a qualitative descriptive study using the Theoretical Domains Framework and COM-B model Journal Articles uri icon

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  • BACKGROUND: University students are within the age group at highest risk for acquiring sexually transmitted infections and other negative health outcomes. Despite the availability of sexual health services at university health centres to promote sexual health, many students delay or avoid seeking care. This study aimed to identify the perceived barriers and enablers to sexual health service use among university undergraduate students. METHODS: We used a qualitative descriptive design to conduct semi-structured focus groups and key informant interviews with university students, health care providers, and university administrators at two university health centres in Nova Scotia, Canada. The semi-structured focus group and interview guides were developed using the Theoretical Domains Framework and COM-B Model. Data were analyzed using a directed content analysis approach, followed by inductive thematic analysis. RESULTS: We conducted 6 focus groups with a total of 56 undergraduate students (aged 18-25) and 7 key informant interviews with clinicians and administrators. We identified 10 barriers and enablers to sexual health service use, under 7 TDF domains: knowledge; memory, attention and decision-making processes; social influences; environmental context and resources; beliefs about consequences; optimism; and emotion. Key linkages between students' social opportunity and motivation were found to influence students' access of sexual health services. CONCLUSIONS: We identified barriers and enablers related to students' capability, opportunity and motivation that influence sexual health service use. We will use these findings to design an intervention that targets the identified barriers and enablers to improve students' use of sexual health services, and ultimately, their overall health and well-being.


  • Cassidy, Christine
  • Bishop, Andrea
  • Steenbeek, Audrey
  • Langille, Donald
  • Martin-Misener, Ruth
  • Curran, Janet

publication date

  • December 2018

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