Although significantly more hierarchical than an academic conference (with a much fancier binder of conference information), it was also more participatory. We broke up into working groups, where we identified priorities and methodologies for measuring the impact of treating NTDs. In case you already forgot, that's Neglected Tropical Diseases (or as economists generalize: worms). My advisor Paul Glewwe, and his entourage of conference-attending PhD students, were all placed in the education impact group. So in other words, our goal was to identify the evidence that making people healthier effects education outcomes. The Miguel and Kremer de-worming study was a major source of evidence on this impact because they found significant increases in school attendance of both treated and nontreated kids in rural Kenya (spillover treatment effects- like a vaccination). However, they found no major impacts of the treatment on test scores (maybe because teachers are already focused healthy front-row kids anyway?). Another interesting retrospective study on the impact of worm eradication in the US belongs to UChicago's Hoyt Bleakley.
Related to Bleakely, for a bit of wonderful history on the eradication of hookworm in the American South ("A lot of Southerners just don't look right... maybe they just had some sort of laziness"), listen to this entertaining Radiolab episode on parasites.
I do like discussing research on the impact of a development intervention on educational outcomes, but there were moments of bureaucratic clarity where I considered the possibility that we weren't searching for research on these effects for the sake of better understanding the impact of de-worming treatments. Rather, at a couple of points, it seemed the purpose of the conference was to identify these impacts for the sake of justifying a money flow into the NTD department of the WHO. Or, in the words of one of the WHO directors "keep the wind in our sails." And its not necessarily the case that this money is flowing in the wrong direction or that the research doesn't justify the money flow to NTDs. However, it did seemed strange to shift the perspective from a strictly research-oriented to standpoint to organizational advocacy.