Learn how communities around the world understand and strive for health and well-being.
Compare strategies of health and community across four radically different country contexts and at global and local scales, through case studies, ethnographic research, and visits with a diverse array of health practitioners and local activists.
The program takes a holistic, interdisciplinary view of academic topics, drawing not only on articles and faculty lectures, but also experiential education in the form of student observations and experiences in the field, with guest lectures and homestay families to facilitate learning. Assignments typically involve written essays, oral presentations, and more creative projects such as posters and photo stories.
Enjoy a weeklong vacation in South Africa.
During the final week in South Africa, you are free to explore other parts of the country with the others in your group.
Learn how communities around the world understand what it is to achieve and maintain health and well-being.
Explore the health realities all citizens face amid mounting challenges created by changing social, environmental, and economic forces
Strengthen your ability to understand, interpret, and compare the socio-cultural, ecological, economic, political, and biological factors that affect human health.
Experience a rural retreat in Barro Do Turvo, Brazil, at the end of the semester.
Critical Global Issue of Study
None, but previous college-level coursework and/or other preparation in public health, anthropology, biology, or other related fields is strongly recommended.
Key Topics of Study
Key Topics of Study
- How a deeper understanding of culture can transform our view of health
- Whether health is a fundamental human right and, If so, who is responsible for guaranteeing it
- Possible solutions to the health inequities—between rich and poor, urban and rural—that exist around the world
- The role of public health in the global context and how the forces of globalization impact health and healthcare
- How grassroots activism and top-down approaches to health conflict with or complement one another
- The role of community in health and well-being and how different people understand what it is to be a healthy person in varied cultural contexts
The following syllabi are representative of this program. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term. The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer. Read more about credit transfer.
- Health, Culture, and Community – syllabus
- (ANTH3050 / 4 credits / 60 hours)
- Medical anthropology serves as the theoretical foundation for this course. It seeks to strengthen students' ability to understand, interpret, and compare how personal and community identity, health and well-being, illness, and healing are understood within diverse cultural contexts. The course examines the philosophy and practices characteristic of biomedicine and a wide range of traditional and other systems of health and healing, as well as the reality of medical pluralism in the lives of individuals. In so doing, the course covers themes of health and healing pertinent across the life span — from birth to death. Throughout, students are encouraged to support their comparative understanding with an exploration of their own assumptions and practices related to identity, health, and healing.
- Globalization and Health – syllabus
- (IPBH3500 / 4 credits / 60 hours)
- Nations at all levels of development vary in their commitment and capacity to define healthcare as a human right and provide healthcare to their citizens equitably. Some have created systems to provide basic healthcare, yet struggle with other factors that influence health, while others position healthcare as an economic commodity subject to market forces. This course provides a framework for comparing the organization and financing of health systems and health policy-making across the countries visited. It examines the political economy of health, with special attention to the impact of international governance, economic, and trade policies. Students gain skills in critical thinking, policy analysis, and debate, supported by research, observation, and exposure to varied perspectives among in-country experts. The course is taught by four different in-country faculty throughout the semester.
- Public Health: From Biology to Policy – syllabus
- (IPBH3505 / 4 credits / 60 hours)
- This course begins with an overview of global and national health trends in the context of demographic shifts and development. In each country visited, a significant health condition is addressed: What are the biological mechanisms of disease? How is disease distributed in the country's populations? What public health interventions are supported by empirical evidence? In light of social, cultural, economic, and political conditions, how can such evidence be applied in the local context? Specific considerations studied range from infectious to "lifestyle" and chronic illnesses, e.g., diarrheal diseases of early childhood, adult mental health, cervical cancer, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis. This course is taught by local faculty in each country.
- Community Health Research Methods – syllabus
- (IPBH3510 / 4 credits / 60 hours)
- This course seeks to strengthen students' competence in inquiry-guided learning through field-based case studies. The course begins with an introduction to the philosophic traditions of ethnography, epidemiology, and health services research — complementary and sometimes conflicting. It then teaches and gives students the opportunity to apply the chief tools of each tradition (e.g., participant observation, in-depth interviewing, community surveys, mapping, interpreting data analyses, and oral presentation of findings). In each country, students choose from a range of available field case study topics/sites as the primary venue for demonstrating their field research and presentation skills.
Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.
Washington, DC, US
The seat of government for one of the richest nations in the world and hub of international policymaking, Washington, DC, is also home to some of the greatest wealth disparities of any city in the United States. Over the course of two weeks in DC, you will explore the diverse neighborhoods and local NGOs of DC; meet with community leaders, activists, and government officials; and begin to develop your own toolbox for effecting change by learning from the successes and failures of others. You will gain deeper insight into the many challenges of and solutions to health and disease at national and local levels while preparing for your exploration of similar issues internationally.
Hear from global health experts at international NGOs while observing firsthand how health inequities affect those living near the halls of world political power. Investigate some of the many social determinants of health, such as access to housing, transportation, and education, as well as gender, race, sexual orientation, disability, citizenship status, and income and examine how these inequities have led to some of the country’s worst health outcomes.
India is a world power with a burgeoning economy and a population that will soon surpass that of China. In Delhi, India’s capital, you will examine the mental and physical health challenges faced by farmers, sexual minorities, and the urban poor and consider how infectious diseases like HIV and malaria and a lack of access to clean water and food compound these challenges. You will examine how such a large and diverse nation addresses the double burden of its infectious disease epidemics and burgeoning chronic disease prevalence as its population both grows and ages and consider the roles public and private entities play in developing solutions.
You will not only learn how to physically navigate the urban complexities of Delhi but also develop new insights from distinguished academics and globally recognized NGOs. Your understanding of rural-urban health disparities will deepen after spending a week in the village of Bahraich, visiting local and regional health clinics and hospitals and meeting with local health practitioners and leaders from surrounding forest communities.
Cape Town, South Africa
South Africa, with its history of apartheid, brings into sharp focus the role of race in determining health. Homestays in the close-knit community Bo Kaap in Cape Town and in the rural township of Zwelethemba allow you to see firsthand how recent changes in political structure affect health and community life—in positive ways, through grassroots health activism, and in equally troubling ways, through persistent health disparities.
Hear from and interact with community activists, physicians, public health practitioners, and officials as they seek to understand how and why HIV/AIDS and TB epidemics have ravaged communities in South Africa. Farmland, fishing rights, pesticides, and water access will be the environmental focus of the program, and you will be challenged to understand domestic and political violence in the context of the country’s social relations. Throughout, you will probe the promise of community activism as a transforming influence in the lives of all people.
São Paulo, Brazil
A center of rich and varied cultural life in Latin America for decades, Brazil has emerged as a major economy and model of participatory democracy. After a period of military dictatorship, Brazil’s new constitution, sanctioned in 1988, established health as a fundamental social right and called for access to social and medical care services for all citizens without discrimination on the basis of skin color, income, social status, or gender. In São Paulo, the largest city in the Americas and a cultural melting pot, you will study the reality of healthcare in Brazil today.
Witness model HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programs in action. Examine why Brazil continues to see wide variations in child and maternal mortality and rates of infectious disease. You will consider what pockets of success can reveal about the way forward in other regions of the country and throughout the world and how political corruption and instability impact these successes. Other themes will include migrant health on the sugar plantations that fuel Brazil’s growing biodiesel industry; “social medicine” as it relates to violence reduction; and family planning, sexuality, and reproductive health.
Faculty and Staff
Faculty and Staff
The faculty/staff team shown on this page is a sample of the individuals who may lead your specific program. Faculty and coordinators are subject to change to accommodate each program’s unique schedule and locations.
SherriLynn Colby-Bottel, PhD, Program Director
SherriLynn received her doctorate in cultural anthropology from the University of Virginia in 2012 and a BA in anthropology (1998) and an MA in music (2001), with distinction, at California State University, Fresno. From 2005 to 2012, with support from the National Science Foundation and the University of Virginia Faculty Senate Fellowship award for scholarly achievement and excellence in teaching, she conducted ethnographic research on disaster recovery, nonprofits, urban traditions, and community-based social activities in New Orleans. Her research explored issues highlighted by disaster and recovery: how racial inequities align with health disparities, how environment and social policy act as determinants of community health, and the vital role of community in one’s ability to achieve personal health and well-being. SherriLynn has worked and volunteered for several nonprofit organizations in the last decade while also researching how nonprofit organizations retain and reward labor. Her current intellectual interests are focused on holistic community well-being, ethnography, and the ethical considerations of representation. SherriLynn has worked in higher education for more than a dozen years as both teacher and administrator at California State University, Fresno; the University of New Orleans; and the University of Virginia. She has been with SIT since 2011.
CyBelle Barthelmess, MA, Program Manager
CyBelle, a former Trustees’ Fellow for IHP’s Cities in the 21st Century program, has returned in the role of program manager. She holds a master’s degree in international education from SIT Graduate Institute and a BA in communications and urban youth work from Gordon College. For the past decade, she has worked in the field of higher education across the globe, empowering undergraduates to develop their identity, intellect, and intercultural competence. Belle is also an assistant faculty member in the Global Studies Department at Azusa Pacific University in Los Angeles, CA.
Susan Sakash, MA, Program Coordinator and Launch Coordinator, Washington, DC
Susan received a master’s degree in social innovation and sustainability from Goddard College in 2015. Her graduate research focused on strengthening solidarity and cooperative economies by looking at how these frameworks and strategies inform the myriad local food system efforts both within the city of New Orleans and across the Deep South. For her undergraduate studies, Susan attended Wesleyan University, where she studied abroad in Madrid, Spain, as part of a Spanish-language immersion program. Susan has explored how people and communities grow stronger through mutual aid and collective action. She has curated socially engaged public art projects in Dublin, Ireland; lived in intentional communities in Costa Rica; and organized community gardens and street music festivals around the US. She joined SIT in 2014.
Abid Siraj, MA, Country Coordinator, India
Abid holds a master's degree in social work, with a specialization in reproductive and child health. He has more than 12 years of experience in public health in India. Previously, he worked for a USAID-funded project on the role of local self-government in the promotion of reproductive and child health. He also served as project coordinator of the USAID-funded Community-Based Distribution Project of Family Planning Methods. He was part of a pioneering team that implemented a flagship public health program for the government of India's National Rural Health Mission in Rajasthan. Abid was also involved with one of UNICEF's largest communication and social mobilization initiatives, the intensive immunization of pulse polio in Uttar Pradesh. He was a visiting faculty for SIT before joining SIT full-time in India in 2011.
Nicole Van Heerden, Country Coordinator, South Africa
Nicole has worked closely with SIT since 2011, serving as South Africa country staff for both the IHP: Health and Communities and IHP: Cities in the 21st Century programs. Nicole recognizes the ethos of IHP as closely aligned to her own passionate commitment to the exploration of her country through roads less traveled and through the stories of ordinary people from different walks of life, stories she feels go unheard too often. Nicole holds a diploma in culinary arts and accreditation as a South African tour operator. She has traveled extensively throughout South Africa as well as neighboring African countries and brings a wealth of experience and insight into both the historical and contemporary nuances that shape life in South Africa today.
Glenda de la Fuente, MA, Country Coordinator, Brazil
Glenda holds a bachelor’s degree in translation and a postgraduate degree from King’s College, University of London, in applied linguistics and English language teaching. She was a professor for and coordinator of the extracurricular English program at the University of Buenos Aires, where she was in charge of teacher training courses. Since 1987, she has been a member of the Humanist Movement, serving as a lecturer and promoter of grassroots nonviolence and nondiscrimination groups in Argentina, Paraguay, Spain, and Brazil. Born in Argentina, she has lived for the last nine years in São Paulo, where she works as a freelance conference interpreter and translator and promotes humanist education programs with community-based groups. She has been a country coordinator with IHP since 2008.
Rose Blake, PhD, Traveling Faculty
Rose recently completed her PhD dissertation in social anthropology. Her PhD research was conducted in the township of Zwelethemba and focused on the tensions leading to intergenerational conflict between close female kin (grandmothers, mothers, and granddaughters) around care and domesticity, in particular, on the impacts of HIV/AIDS, the social grant system, and widespread unemployment on these relationships. Rose holds a master’s degree in medical anthropology from the University of Edinburgh and has conducted research into the experiences of children receiving in-patient chemotherapy at a large provincial children’s hospital in South Africa. She has been involved with this program since 2010, as coordinator in Cape Town, program manager, and now traveling faculty.
Domenique Ciavattone, Trustees’ Fellow
Domenique graduated from Stonehill College in 2013 with a dual degree in communication and global social justice, a self-designed interdisciplinary major focused on the interconnectedness of health, education, gender equity, and environmental sustainability in international development. As an undergraduate, she studied abroad in Italy and on SIT’s program in Kenya, where she explored the role of health in community development. Following graduation, she served for 10 months with MusicianCorps, using music to reach, teach, and heal in Raleigh, North Carolina. Most recently, Domenique lived and worked in rural Tanzania for two years with 2Seeds Network, collaborating with small-scale farmers to find innovative ways to increase food and income security.
The homestay is an integral part of the SIT experience. During your homestay, you’ll become a member of a local family, sharing meals with them, joining them for special occasions, talking with them in their language, and experiencing the host country through their eyes. Homestay placements are arranged by a local coordinator who carefully screens and approves each family. Students frequently cite the homestay as the highlight of their program. Read more about SIT homestays.
You will live with a host family for between two and four weeks at each program site, with the exception of the first location. Homestays are the primary form of accommodation on the program; other accommodations can include guest houses, hostels, dormitories, and/or small hotels.
Family structures vary in every place. For example, the host family may include a single mother of two small children or a large extended family with many people coming and going all the time. Please bear in mind that the idea of what constitutes a “home” (i.e., the physical nature of the house) may be different from what you expect. You will need to be prepared to adapt to a new life with a new diet, a new schedule, new people, and possibly new priorities and expectations.
Country coordinators in each location arrange homestay placements. In most cases, students will be placed in homestays in pairs, with placements made to best accommodate health concerns, including allergies or dietary needs. You will not receive information about homestay families until you arrive in each country.
Positions recently held by alumni of this program include:
- Co-founder and executive director of Spark MicroGrants, New York, NY, and multiple locations in Africa
- Policy advisor in the Executive Office of the President, Office of Science and Technology Policy, Washington, DC
- Managing director of Food Loft, Boston, MA
- Intern at the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Global Health Diplomacy, Washington, DC
- Primary care intern at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA
- Founder of TurnOut, an LGBTQ volunteer-matching social enterprise, San Francisco, CA
Cost and Scholarships
Cost and Scholarships
SIT Study Abroad is committed to making international education accessible to all students. Scholarship awards generally range from $500 to $5,000 for semester programs and $500 to $3,000 for summer programs. This year, SIT will award more than $1.5 million in scholarships and grants to SIT Study Abroad students.
SIT Pell Grant Match Award. SIT Study Abroad provides matching grants to students receiving Federal Pell Grant funding for the term during which they are studying with SIT. This award can be applied to any SIT program. Qualified students must complete the scholarship portion of their application. View all SIT Study Abroad scholarships.
The tuition fee covers the following program components:
- Content and logistics for field programs in Washington, DC; Delhi; Cape Town; and São Paulo
- Cost of all lecturers who provide instruction to students in:
- Locally taught classes
- Public Health
- Globalization and Health
- Classes taught by traveling faculty
- Health, Culture, and Community
- Community Health Research Methods
- Locally taught classes
- Guest lectures and panel discussions
- Site visit hosts and facilitators
- Transportation to classroom spaces and daily program activities
- All educational excursions to rural stays, including all related travel costs
- Traveler’s health insurance throughout the entire program period
- Instructional materials
- Other direct program costs
Note: Vacation costs are not covered by program fees; students are responsible for this.
- Group airfare during the program
- Airfare includes a flight back to a city in the US at the conclusion of the program.
Room & Board: $4,500
The room and board fee covers the following program components:
- All accommodations during the entire program, except the vacation period. This includes during orientation, time in all four countries, urban and rural stays, all excursions, and the final retreat. Accommodation is covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend provided to each student, or through the homestay.
- All homestays in Delhi, Cape Town, and São Paulo
- All meals for the entire program, except the vacation period. Meals are covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend, or through the homestay.
Estimated Additional Costs:
Domestic Airfare to Program Launch Site
Domestic airline pricing can vary greatly due to the volatility of airline industry pricing, flight availability, and specific flexibility/restrictions on the type of ticket purchased. Students may choose to take advantage of frequent flyer or other airline awards available to them, which could significantly lower their travel costs.
Visa Expenses: $275
Books & Supplies: $150
International Phone: Each student must have a phone in each country. Cost varies according to personal preferences, phone plans, data plans, etc.
Break: $500 - $800
Please note: This is an estimated range based on student surveys from past semesters. Students' individual needs for their breaks will vary. For the entirety of the break period, students will be responsible for all of their expenses, including travel and room and board.
Personal expenses during the program vary based on individual spending habits and budgets. While all meals and accommodations are covered in the room and board fee, incidentals and personal transportation costs differ depending on the non-program-related interests and pursuits of each student. To learn more about personal budgeting, we recommend speaking with alumni who participated in a program in your region. See a full list of our alumni contacts. Please note that free time to pursue non-program-related activities is limited.
Please Note: Fees and additional expenses are based on all known circumstances at the time of calculation. Due to the unique nature of our programs and the economics of host countries, SIT reserves the right to change its fees or additional expenses without notice.
Contact A Former Student
These letters home are from previous terms. Site locations may vary from term to term.
Letters Home: Health (Fall 1)
- January 27, 2016
- IHP Health and Community Track 1 Fall 2015 – Brazil
- Team Brazil Letter Home After many weeks of learning and exploring in the US, India, and South Africa, we arrived in Brazil and began the final leg of our semester. Our final transition, our final country team, and our final homestay family came with equal excitement and anticipation. Upon arrival in São Paulo, we hit […]
- January 27, 2016
- IHP Health and Community Track 1 Fall 2015 – South Africa
- Dear Friends and Family, We arrived in beautiful South Africa! Although we were sad to leave India and all of the amazing people we met along the way, the group was beyond excited when we finally landed in Cape Town. Our first stop was a stunning small beach town called Muizenberg. We used our time […]
- October 28, 2015
- IHP Health and Community Track 1 Fall 2015 – India
- After two weeks in Washington DC, we were so excited to arrive in our first overseas destination: Delhi, India. Upon arrival, the IHP staff warmly welcomed us with traditional flowers and bindis. We were also greeted by a sensory overload of crazy sights, smells, and many loud horns. In addition to a schedule packed with […]