The STEPS study– improving sexual health services for young people


Principal Investigator: Dr Louise Jackson

Research Overview

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are a major public health concern both in the UK and globally. Young people particularly bear the burden of the ill-health caused by STIs.

Testing young people for STIs, even if they don't have any symptoms, can be effective in preventing the spread of disease. There are many ways in which people can access STI screening to help them maintain good sexual health – e.g. at a pharmacy, clinic or by ordering a kit online. This project aims to find out what kinds of services young people would like to see in these different settings so that we can make the best use of NHS resources. This will help to make sure that the right kinds of services are provided in the right kinds of places. 

Our research

STIs have important impacts on sexual and reproductive health and young people continue to experience the greatest burden of STI infection. STI screening has changed fundamentally over the last few years with the introduction of screening in a wider range of settings such as GP surgeries, community based pharmacies, and via the internet.

This research project aims to find out how changes in screening services influence young people’s choices about whether to screen and where to screen. Very few studies have been conducted which are concerned with measuring people's preferences for STI screening and testing. The research evidence which does exist has mainly been carried out with people who already use sexual health services and has not fully incorporated ethnic minority groups. This research project aims to include the views of a range of demographic groups and those who do not currently access screening services.

The research will involve both qualitative and quantitative techniques. Firstly, in-depth interviews and focus group discussions will be carried out with around 40 young people in community, primary care and specialist settings to identify the factors that are particularly important to them. This will be followed by a large-scale questionnaire survey to measure young people's screening preferences.

The results will help to improve our understanding of young people’s preferences for screening in different settings. This research will contribute to the development of Birmingham’s new sexual health system and will also have national and international application.

This study is funded by the Sexually Transmitted Infection Research Foundation (STIRF) and the University Hospitals Birmingham Charity.

Staff members


Contact us

If you would like further information about the project, please contact Louise Jackson (the main study researcher). 

Phone: +44 (0) 121 414 6486.