Teen pregnancy and reproductive health were not exactly topics of open conversation in PhiYen Nguyen’s public school education in Oklahoma, and even less so in her Vietnamese American home. Health education in the state “basically amounted to an 18-slide presentation on HIV and AIDS,” she recalls.
For a class research project, she wrote a policy memo to Oklahoma’s governor suggesting ways to develop pregnancy education standards in a state with one of the highest rates of teen births, according to 2019 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“There’s no mandate for sex education in Oklahoma,” she says, pointing out that teen pregnancy and childbearing have significant impacts on women’s lives, affecting not only education, but earning potential and quality of life.
Her research reinforced a desire to educate others on health and well-being. Today, Nguyen is on the Boston campus pursuing a master’s degree in public policy with a concentration in healthcare management and policy. And she’s looking beyond the state where she grew up to research the plight of women refugees looking to relocate to high-income countries.