Graduate Alumni Research Award, Lisa Jackson
Continuing with the Graduate Forum series on Graduate Alumni Research Award recipients, Master of Public Health (MPH) student, Lisa Jackson, describes her work on her public health capstone.
Being a recipient of the Graduate Alumni Research Award this school year was a great surprise and very much appreciated. The money awarded will help me afford a flight to Arizona in May 2014 where I will present my final research to the school board at my old high school.
I am currently a part-time Master of Public Health (MPH) student at The Dartmouth Institute (TDI), and will graduate in June 2014. Prior to graduation, I must complete a capstone project, the final and culminating body of research required to attain the master’s degree. My public health capstone is a CDC-modeled program evaluation report on my high school’s sexual education program that just began there two years ago. My report will incorporate a meta-analysis on the effectiveness of sexual education programs on curbing teen pregnancy and birth in general, and include recommendations to my high school’s administrators on ways in which they can strengthen and make more sustainable the sexual education program they have just begun.
Teen pregnancy and birth continues to be a major public health issue in our country. According to the CDC, pregnancy and birth are significant contributors to high school drop out rates among girls. Additionally, children and teen mothers are more likely to: have lower overall school achievements, have health problems, become incarcerated, experience higher unemployment, and become teen parents themselves. According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, as of 2011, 3 out of 10 girls will become pregnant at least once prior to age 20 in the United States. While teen pregnancy and birth rates in Arizona have begun to decrease in the past few years, Arizona still ranks near the top of the list of states with the highest rates nationally, and the county in which my high school is located ranks the highest in all of Arizona.
To help curb the consistently high teen pregnancy and birth rates at my high school, the superintendent, principal, girls’ physical education teacher, and members of the school board all recognized the need to start teaching more comprehensive sexual education, rather than the abstinence-only approach they had been promoting for decades prior. I am excited that my high school is embracing a more progressive approach to sexual education, and I truly hope the outcome of such efforts is a decrease in teen pregnancy and birth rates. I hope my report will aid school leaders in further developing the new sexual education program and help draw attention to areas in which it could be improved and strengthened moving forward.
Without the Graduate Alumni Research Award, I would not be able to afford to fly back to Arizona to present my final report and findings to the school board and other school leaders. An email attachment is one way to share a report, but I am so glad to have the opportunity to personally present my findings. I believe my in-person presentation will be that much more impactful. My many thanks go to the Graduate Studies Office for selecting me to receive the award, and to the many alumni who contribute funds to support the research of graduate students like myself.
by Lisa Jackson