Degree Name

DrPH (Doctor of Public Health)


Public Health

Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Mildred Maisonet

Committee Members

Katie Baker, Beth Bailey


In 2015, TN had the 9th highest teen birth rate in the United States. School-based sex education programs have shown promise in curbing teen pregnancy rates. In TN public schools, sex education could be taught by teachers of subjects like biology, health education, or invited guests from ministries, or national or local nonprofit agencies. The content, rigor, and approach of sex education taught by these diverse groups of providers remains unknown. This pilot study tested a survey questionnaire and methodology, while providing information on the providers’ sex education practices and perspectives.

We adapted validated measures from past sex education surveys to reflect the context of TN. The survey items were reviewed and refined by diverse groups of experts on school-based health education, teen pregnancy prevention programs, and adolescent health. The survey was created and distributed via a web-based tool. A recruitment email or letter with a weblink to the survey was sent to 3,249 potential sex education providers, from April to June 2017. Of all contacts, 509 completed the survey, yielding a response rate of 15.7%. Of those who completed the survey, 137 taught sex education in the 2015-2016 school year to any of grades 5 through 12 students. Survey responses were analyzed using descriptive tests.

Abstinence (83.9%) was taught by most respondents, by grade 12, but far less respondents taught topics related to birth control (65.0%) and condoms: how to use condoms (22.6%), how to use and where to get other birth control (31.4%). Providers with more years of experience, and those who expressed that they had received enough training, were more likely to teach more number of topics, including controversial topics, such as condoms and birth control. Most providers indicated that sex education topics should be taught in earlier grades.

This study identified the job titles of providers, content being taught, approach to teaching, and how providers would want to teach sex education. Identifying providers is crucial to designing sex education training programs, tracking program effectiveness, and changes in practices over time, to achieve the goal of curbing TN teen pregnancy rates through quality sex education.

Document Type

Dissertation - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.