By Ruby Bolaria
UCLA Luskin Student Writer
Despite the rigorous analysis and data research that think tanks generate to support certain policy actions, government bodies rarely heed recommendations, especially in African nations.
So it speaks volumes that UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs alum Chris Odell, (Public Policy, 2011), while working for Innovations for Poverty Action, was able to provide technical assistance to the Kenyan government.
Odell’s role was to manage and evaluate the effectiveness of a school-based deworming campaign. Odell helped implement the policy recommendations with Innovations for Poverty Action, which uses research to help the world’s poor and provides hands-on assistance to bring successful programs to scale.
The Kenyan government's school-based deworming campaign encouraged treatment of children for intestinal worms based on the report's claim that school intervention would be the most cost-effective and efficient way to improve health and education. According to the official website: "The Kenyan Government launched a national program, with total costs at only 36 US cents per child. In addition, over 1,000 district/division-level personnel and over 16,000 teachers across 45 districts were trained during program implementation.
"The Kenya National School-based Deworming Program is led by the Ministry of Education in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation and the Kenya Medical Research Institute. Preparations are under way for the next round of deworming, including treatment for both soil-transmitted helminths and schistosomiasis."
Odell’s Masters in Public Policy specialized in international policy, particularly global health. When he was a student the international program at UCLA was in its infancy stages and he worked with UCLA Luskin faculty and staff including Stephen Commins, the Associate Director of International Initiatives, and Sherry Dodge, the School's Director of Career Services, to promote the International Practice Pathways initiative which helps students connect with international internship and job opportunities.
Odell recognized the growing desire among other Public Policy and Urban Planning students to get involved in the international aid and development world.
“Compared to other schools with more extensive global health networks, UCLA needed to step it up," he said. "There are UCLA alumni doing great global work but no one was connecting these people with current students.”
His proactive work paid off and through a connection of Commins, Odell worked on a research project addressing the effectiveness of government intervention with at-risk street youth in Guatemala and El Salvador. He leveraged this opportunity to launch his career abroad.
Armed with his UCLA Luskin reusable water bottle, Odell captured "Lusky" in his different habitats. He made sure to document some of his globe-trotting by taking a picture of Lusky — the nickname he gave the bottle — almost everywhere he went.
Odell recently returned to the U.S for a new position with the Institute for Health Metric and Evaluation, an independent global health research center at the University of Washington. The institute provides rigorous and comparable measurements and strategies of the world's most important health problems and how to address them.
Currently, he is working with a large alliance to evaluate the effectiveness of vaccinations among other health impacts for five developing countries.
“Health issues reduce overall living conditions and are compounded by poverty," he said. "People deserve a better life. When governments are trying to figure out how to structure aid, they need the most complete, accurate, developed data to make the best possible decisions. I am dedicating my life and career to finding and developing that information and data for policy makers to be able to make the best decisions about how international aid is dispersed.”