Brief Motivational Intervention to Improve Adolescent Sexual Health Service Uptake: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial in the Emergency Department

J Pediatr. 2021 Oct:237:250-257.e2. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2021.06.007. Epub 2021 Jun 16.


Objective: To test the hypothesis that our motivational sexual health intervention (SexHealth) would increase health service uptake when compared with control.

Study design: In a randomized controlled trial at a pediatric emergency department, sexually active adolescents received either the SexHealth intervention or printed materials (control). SexHealth, delivered by a health educator, was a tablet-based, interactive intervention that included motivational techniques to promote sexual health, condom skills training, and tailored service recommendations. We assessed feasibility (eg, intervention completion, recommendations discussed, intervention duration), acceptability (ie, proportion enrolled and rating intervention as satisfactory), and efficacy; secondary outcomes were sexual and care-seeking behaviors at 6 months. The efficacy outcome was completion of ≥1 service at the index visit (ie, counseling, condoms, emergency contraception for immediate or future use, pregnancy/sexually transmitted infection/HIV testing, sexually transmitted infection treatment, and clinic referral).

Results: We enrolled 91 participants (intervention = 44; control = 47). The intervention demonstrated high feasibility: 98% completed the intervention; 98% of recommendations were discussed; duration was 24.6 minutes, and acceptability: 87% of eligible adolescents enrolled and 93% rated the intervention as fairly to very satisfactory. Compared with controls, intervention participants were more likely to complete ≥1 service (98% vs 70%, P < .001) including HIV testing (33% vs 6%, P = .02) and emergency contraception (80% vs 0%, P = .01). There were no meaningful differences between arms in behaviors at follow-up.

Conclusions: SexHealth was feasible to implement, acceptable to youth, and resulted in increased uptake of health services during the emergency department visit. Additional strategies may be needed to extend intervention effects over time.

Clinical trial registration:; NCT03341975.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior*
  • Adolescent Health Services*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motivational Interviewing*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Sexual Behavior*

Associated data