A new study by Cochrane researchers has indicated that interactive computer packages are effective in tackling problems such as sexually transmitted infections.
Computer-based interventions are a promising alternative and have already proved successful in the promotion of HIV-related sexual health, but there is less certainty about whether computer-based interventions can help with other sexual health concerns such as unwanted pregnancy, psychosexual difficulties or relationship problems.
The authors reviewed data from 15 trials which tested interactive computer-based interventions (ICBIs), involving a total of 3,917 people. Interactive packages require input from the user, for instance making choices that result in personalised feedback. The interactive packages in these 15 trials made imaginative use of multimedia capability, for example games, animations, scenarios, simulations and interactive characters.
According to the researchers, ICBIs moderately increased knowledge about sexual health issues and had smaller effects on increasing people's confidence in their actions to protect sexual health, and on actual sexual behaviour.
In one study for instance, condom use in the previous month was increased. They also concluded that ICBIs seem as effective as face-to-face interventions for improving knowledge but were unable to draw clear conclusions about how ICBIs might work.
"This review suggests interactive computer-based interventions are effective tools for learning about sexual health and could be used by people of different ages and sexuality, at least in high-income countries," said lead researcher Julia Bailey from the e-Health Unit at University College London in London, UK.