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Karen Odegaard, MPH


Associate Researcher
University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute


Karen is a Community Engagement Specialist on the Robert Wood Johnson funded County Health Rankings and Roadmaps project. Karen’s role is to provide strategic guidance to communities that want to put the County Health Rankings into action for community health improvement. She is part of a team that develops online tools to connect communities to evidence-informed strategies and to foster peer learning, delivers technical assistance and training, and recognizes and celebrates health improvement.
Karen’s professional experience prior to joining the Population Health Institute has included work at various levels within non-profit, local and state government, and university settings, to help communities address and improve their quality of life. This has involved work addressing multiple health factors including access to health care, physical activity and nutrition, social support, and physical environments. Karen began her career as a journalist for a mid-sized newspaper in Wisconsin. Her experience outside the newsroom includes work with neighborhood-based organizations in Green Bay to improve low-income communities, with school districts and a state-wide coalition to ensure that Wisconsin families and children are able to gain access to health insurance programs, and with a variety of local community coalitions and statewide organizations to create policy and environmental changes related to physical activity in schools and child care centers. These diverse experiences have fostered her expertise and passion for empowering communities to utilize existing assets in tandem with evidence-informed practices to meet stakeholder needs and improve community health.
Karen received a Master of Public Health degree from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in print journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.