Thoai Ngo

2017 Winner

Position: Program Director, Poverty, Gender, and Youth
Organization: Population Council
Current Location: New York City

Ph.D. from London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Additional Degrees and Certifications:
• MHS, Global Disease Epidemiology and Control, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA
• Certificate in Vaccine Science & Policy, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA
• Certificate in Health & Human Rights, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA

Awards Received:

Rotary International Ambassadorial Scholar
Awarding Organization:
Rotary International
Date Awarded:
May 1, 2008

Best in Class Research
Awarding Organization:
International Conference on Family Planning 2013
Date Awarded:
November 15, 2013

Thoai Ngo is the director of the Population Council’s Poverty, Gender, and Youth Program, overseeing efforts to develop and test innovative solutions, and scale up successful strategies to improve the well-being of adolescents, particularly adolescent girls; accelerate positive demographic trends; and strengthen the resilience of vulnerable populations to adapt to environmental shocks and stressors. Ngo also directs the Population Council’s new Girl Innovation, Research and Learning (GIRL) Center, which generates and translates high-quality evidence to transform the lives of adolescent girls. As an epidemiologist and evaluation specialist, Ngo’s research has been focused on the young and urban poor populations in low- and middle-income countries. Primarily, he has been designing and evaluating the most effective, affordable and innovative interventions and programs in sexual and reproductive health, including family planning, sexually transmitted infections, HIV/AIDS and safe abortion. Prior to joining the Population Council, Ngo served as the senior director and vice president of research at Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA), overseeing more than 500 research staff in conducting more than 250 impact evaluations of potential programs and policies to tackle global poverty issues. He also served as head of global research at Marie Stopes International (MSI), a non-governmental organization that delivers sexual and reproductive health services in 42 countries. Ngo received his PhD from the London School for Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and his Master of Health Science degree from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. He has authored more than 50 peer-reviewed journal articles, policy reports, and book chapters.

“Thoai is finding more effective, efficient & affordable ways to ensure the sexual and reproductive health of men, women & young people around the world. The new Girl Center, which he directs, helps shape programs & policies to improve girls’ lives.

– Ann Blanc, Vice President, Social and Behavioral Science Research at Population Council

Describe your contributions to and achievements in family planning.

I work across cultures and institutions to create strategic partnerships with donors, governments, and practitioners who share a commitment to evidence-based solutions to global SRH challenges. At the Population Council, I oversee research efforts across 30 countries to develop and test innovative solutions, and scale up successful strategies to improve the well-being of adolescents and accelerate positive demographic trends. At IPA, I was responsible for directing IPA’s corps of 500+ research staff to conduct 250 impact evaluations on poverty reduction interventions. I helped build Marie Stopes Global Research Program across 40 countries. My research (50+ papers) has been used to inform international (e.g., WHO) and national guidelines, policies, and programs on SRH.

What sparked your passion for family planning?

I was asked to join Marie Stopes to help build its global research department. MSI sent me to Ghana where the team was asked to give a talk about family planning to a group of young people. A young woman stood up, and said, “Well, you know, I never heard about you guys. And I’m a college student.” She told us that she has an older partner, so the decision to use a contraceptive method to prevent unwanted pregnancy wasn’t hers. Her words were powerful, and helped me think about FP differently.

Give one or two examples of how you display leadership in your family planning work.:

To ensure innovative and proven methods of service delivery for SRH are being used, I sought to expand technical assistance to and secure the support of national governments in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Recently, I lead a team comprising of local experts in collaboration with Vietnam MOH to gather evidence and design a new national family planning model. I have trained a number of local researchers and practitioners, and mentored M.Sc. & Ph.D. students to work on SRH issues.

If you are named a winner of 120 under 40, how will you use this new platform and the $1000 grant to advance your work?

I would ensure that governments, donors, and the public and private sectors place adolescents at the forefront of social and economic development. We need to address the needs of adolescents, especially girls, through a multi-sectoral approach before puberty begins. I will continue to champion for evidenced-based investment, policies, and programs that improve SRH for adolescents. I will use the grant money to help support a young researcher to work with me at the Council’s GIRL Center.

Photos of the nominee in the field/at work