The Cantabrians develop an educational app on relationships and sexuality for young people in Aotearoa



A mobile app providing sex, sexuality, relationships, gender and identity education for young Kiwis, aged 13-24, is being developed at the University of Canterbury. Faculty of Health Lecturer Tracy Clelland, Masters Student Cate Mentink and Health Educator Jessica McQuoid are behind the app, Te Puāwaitanga: Beyond Birds and Bees.

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

“There is nothing like it in Aotearoa, and we hope this will help support and further expand relationship and sexuality education in this country.”

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

“In particular, it has been pointed out that relationship and sexuality education is not meeting the needs of our Maori and Pasifika rangatahi,” says Cate.

With funding from KiwiNet and Canterbury’s primary healthcare organization Pegasus Health, a working prototype has now been developed. The next step is to present this to young people to get their feedback and involve them in further co-development.

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 young people will use.

“We are thrilled to be able to contribute to the work that Tracy and Jessica are doing,” says Irihāpeti.

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

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

The app is set to launch in November 2022, but difficulties finding additional funding could jeopardize development.

“We are collaborating with youth and youth health organizations for content, but there is still a long way to go. Additional funding ensures that we get the best content into the hands of our young people as soon as possible,” says Tracy.

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