When Victoria Aucoin and Laura Rudberg signed up for Latha Rajan’s summer course in Malaysia, they didn’t realize that they would be blazing new ground. While in Malaysia, they conducted research on sexual health education among Burmese refugee adolescents. Last fall, they presented their findings at the 138th annual American Public Health Association (APHA) meeting in Denver, Colorado. They are the first undergraduate students from Tulane selected to present at the meeting.
During the poster session, Aucoin and Rudberg discussed the results of their needs assessment survey among adolescents in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. They found vast gaps in knowledge and an acute need for sexual education in the face of social and religious restraints.
Aucoin and Rudberg spent over four weeks in Kuala Lumpur, conducting fieldwork, interviews, and community health worker training to assess the need for sexual health education among Burmese refugee school-aged adolescents.
Under the mentorship of Rajan, clinical associate professor of tropical medicine, they administered a survey in three refugee community schools, assessing adolescents’ knowledge of sexual anatomy, behaviors, and risks. The study demonstrated the need for sexual health education among Burmese refugee adolescents, and findings will be addressed in a sexual education manual being developed by Health Equity Initiative, a non-governmental organization in Kuala Lumpur. As a result of the study, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Bar Council of Malaysia have become aware of these needs, and plans are underway to implement changes.
“This was a difficult project, but the two young students were quick to learn and did an amazing piece of work,” said Rajan. “We are very proud of them since they are the very first Tulane undergrads to present at APHA. I am also delighted that their poster invoked so much interest from other conference attendees.”