Jessica Ott

Jessica Ott

I am a Master of Public Health student in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, working with UNESCO for the summer in Nairobi, Kenya. Part of my work involves working with Jacaranda Designs, a local education-based enterprise closely connected with UNESCO, to write health-related articles for the Young African Express, an educational newspaper widely distributed in East African schools. Additional duties include assisting with grant and project proposals and developing a health curriculum for their innovative Chanuka Express mobile education outreach program aimed at offering life skills and sustainable development education to upper primary students in Kenya.

From an equipped and branded bus, teams of young people, including university students and graduates, travel to low-income schools to offer education on health, safety and the environment, while motivating youth to engage in community development by applying these new skills. In Kiswahili slang, chanuka means “to sharpen up, or get with it, by using knowledge.” The program challenges and recognizes young people for their participation in promoting peace and contributing to building a more productive nation.

The Wallenberg Travel Award is allowing me to do meaningful work in both health and education, in a post-conflict country with a struggling health infrastructure and education system. I am gaining meaningful insight into Kenya’s education system and the way health education is implemented through visits with Chanuka to local primary schools. In the past, I have considered pursuing a career in international education policy, and this experience has solidified that goal. I truly believe that education is the heart valve of any country and that health and education are inseparable. Poor health affects one’s ability to receive a quality education, and a quality education is the greatest predictor of one’s future health and quality of life. This experience will inform and shape my future studies and work in international education policy and public health.

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