Since its founding in 1947, the Kinsey Institute has been a national leader and innovator in sexual health research. Dr. Alfred Kinsey established the institute with two goals: first, to research human sexual behavior, and second, to administer research resources, such as a library and a collection of case histories.
Throughout its history, the Kinsey Institute has maintained a commitment to communicating its findings in meaningful ways to the public. From 1983 to 1984, the institute published an internationally syndicated newspaper column, “The Kinsey Report.” These days, the institute keeps an active Twitter account to connect with the public on common questions about sexuality and sexual health.
The Kinsey Institute Condom Use Research Team, or KI-CURT, continues the institute’s legacy of connecting groundbreaking research to the public in its work. The team, which focuses on condom use research and STD prevention, is based out of the Rural Center for AIDS/STD Prevention.
Often, academic research stops after a paper gets published. It can be years or decades before research findings are translated into meaningful interventions for everyday people, if ever. In contrast, KI-CURT has actively used its research to make positive change in people’s lives.
This is apparent in the team’s fruitful collaborations with other organizations in sexual health. Its research has inspired a new condom design, the O-ring condom, that improves the accuracy and ease of condom application.
Another focus of KI-CURT’s work has been creating a series of evidence-based educational interventions to increase correct, consistent, and enjoyable condom use.
These interventions have included a home- and clinic-based condom use educational program, known as The Kinsey Institute Homework Intervention Strategy. KI-HIS has been tested for men who have sex with men  and men who have sex with women . A web-based version is currently being developed and tested in the United Kingdom.
Similar interventions for women, The Kinsey Institute Home-based Exercises for Responsible Sex , and for couples, The Home-based Exercises for Increasing Responsible Sex, have also undergone pilot tests at the Indiana University-Bloomington campus.
Heather Francis, a PhD candidate in health behavior, has been a part of KI-CURT for a number of years. The team is planning on expanding its educational intervention program in the future. Although the work of KI-CURT is primarily focused on testing interventions, Francis is also interested in other aspects of sexual health research.
For her dissertation, Francis is working on a research project that examines sexual satisfaction among adults in Utah who married in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the first of its kind. The initial study found that the top predictor of sexual satisfaction among men and women married in the LDS faith was perception of partner satisfaction . The project fills a gap in the literature on religious minorities and sexual well-being and investigates an important relationship between religion and sexual health.
Francis makes it a point to connect with young researchers. She currently works with an undergraduate research assistant and notes that there is no shortage of opportunities for undergraduates to get involved in research with the Kinsey Institute.
Moreover, Francis, like Kinsey Institute itself, is dedicated to making her research relevant to the public. Before coming to Indiana University, she was a mental health therapist at Butler University. When she noticed that a lot of college students were coming in with concerns about sexual health, she became interested in research.
“A lot of these students’ concerns could be addressed with standard, well-known knowledge, but they were beating themselves up over it,” Francis said. “I thought it was interesting that I could use the research knowledge that I had in mental health therapy to help my clients because doing that is very different from doing therapy.”
As a graduate student, Francis continues to be communicative and open about her research. She recently participated in the Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition, which challenges graduate students to present their research and its significance to a general audience in no more than three minutes.
“This always happens at conferences or talks,” Francis commented. “After the fact, after everyone’s left, one person will come up to me and say: ‘Thank you so much, I really need to hear this.’”
In reflecting on her work, Francis said, “Sexual health is one thing that everyone can relate to.”