IHP: Health and Community: Globalization, Culture, and Care (Spring 2)

IHP: Health and Community: Globalization, Culture, and Care (Spring 2)

Learn how communities around the world understand and strive for health and well-being.

This program will strengthen your ability to understand, interpret, and compare the socio-cultural, ecological, economic, political, and biological factors that affect human health. From North America to South Asia and Africa to South America, in city neighborhoods and rural villages, you will learn to listen to and understand multiple voices: people in local communities, governing bodies and nongovernmental agencies, caregivers, and those receiving care.

Key Questions:

  • How can a deeper understanding of culture transform our view of health?
  • Is health a fundamental human right? If so, who is responsible for guaranteeing it?
  • What can be done about the health inequities — between rich and poor, urban and rural — that exist around the world?
  • What is the role of public health in the global context? How do the forces of globalization impact health and healthcare?
  • How do grassroots activism and top-down approaches conflict with or complement one another?
  • What is the role of community in health and well-being? And, how do different people understand what it is to be a healthy person in varied cultural contexts?

Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.

San Francisco, USA

(2 weeks)
San FranciscoSan Francisco is an incredible place to start your exploration of health, community, policy, globalization, and systems of care. One of the most powerful political forces in US health and social politics, as well as of one the most densely populated cities in the US (second only to New York), San Francisco is home to activists and politicians who have played an important role in bringing holistic healthcare into public discourse. You will meet with a broad spectrum of people and entities, from government officials and influential think tanks, to local activists and ground-breaking systems of care — all while observing firsthand the radical health inequities that exist only a few city blocks apart. Investigate some of the many social determinants of health, including gender, housing, racism, sexual orientation, access to education, citizenship status, and income. By meeting with locals, you will explore how imbalances in these factors led to some of our country’s poorest health outcomes. Over the course of the two weeks in San Francisco, you will gain deeper insight into the many challenges of and solutions to health and disease at the national and local levels, while setting the stage for your exploration of similar issues internationally. You will explore the themes of rupture and resilience — both environmentally and socially — as they have played out in San Francisco’s colorful history. You will explore the diverse neighborhoods and local NGOs of San Francisco; meet with community leaders, HIV/AIDS activists, and local government officials and will begin to develop your own toolbox for effecting change by learning from the successes and failures of others. You will also delve into the four interdisciplinary courses that make up the Health and Community program, all while connecting with new friends and exploring the City by the Bay.

Hanoi, Vietnam

(4 weeks)
VietnamOne of Southeast Asia’s most vibrant and rapidly developing nations, Vietnam has succeeded in dramatically reducing poverty, yet considerable challenges remain. The most vexing health-related issues include an HIV/AIDS epidemic that threatens to become widespread, the enormous demands placed on health systems from rising rural-to-urban migration, widening social inequalities, and worsening environmental conditions. The whirring of motorbikes, the calls of fresh fruit vendors, and the clang of new building projects are sounds that fill the air in Hanoi, where you will be hosted by the Institute of Population, Health, and Development (PHAD). This dynamic NGO, formed by experienced public health experts, implements a range of health research and development programs, such as online HIV/AIDS and sexuality education for migrant workers and HIV prevention for most-at-risk populations. Hanoi Medical School, Vietnam’s premier medical education institution, is known for leading medical training in Vietnam and will serve as co-host. This combination will provide you with a rare opportunity to study with Vietnam’s finest public health professionals and observe firsthand, through visits to project and field sites, creative efforts to resolve some of the country’s most challenging problems. The program will include homestays in Hanoi as well as excursions to surrounding rural areas.

Bushbuckridge, South Africa

(5 weeks)
South AfricaBegin with a brief stay in cosmopolitan Johannesburg, where you’ll learn about South Africa’s multicultural history and the impact of apartheid, as well as recent reform. From the bustling city, venture to the Bushbuckridge region, a collection of rural communities bordered on the east by Kruger National Park, one of the best-known game parks in the world. Sought after by ecotourism enterprises and the government for its natural beauty and resources, the area has been at the center of contentious land struggles, land-use policies, and conservation efforts, which have deeply impacted the health of the indigenous population. Engage in dialogue with people on various sides of the land-use issue. HIV/AIDS, lack of access to land and water, unemployment, and alcoholism are also central themes for consideration. What efforts are underway at the local and national levels to address these challenges and improve conditions in the region? What role can education play in improving health? Diverse homestays provide an opportunity to gain personal perspective and grapple with divergent viewpoints.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

(5 weeks)
ArgentinaBuenos Aires, capital city of Argentina, is a European-style, friendly, and bustling city of 14,000,000 inhabitants. Shaped by massive waves of immigration, both past and present, this cosmopolitan city stands out because of the delicate equilibrium between tradition and modernity that characterizes it. Immersed in a context of rapid growth and globalized development since mid-2000, Argentina plays a fundamental role in a region characterized by extreme inequalities in vast sectors of the population. In the Argentine scenario, one of the key and most interesting fields to study is the health sector, which in Argentina looks beyond the traditional polarization between public and private, incorporating a third highly powerful sector represented by the labor unions. A complete free public health system that covers every person residing in the country coexists with two others, a private sector and a semi-private labor union sector, both powerful and competitive. Buenos Aires, the most important and influential city in Argentina, both politically and economically, is the perfect place to experience and study the complexities of living and surviving in a globalized city immersed in a Latin American context.


None, but previous college-level coursework and/or other preparation in public health, anthropology, biology, or other related fields is strongly recommended.

Access virtual library guide.

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.

Students enrolled on this program take all courses listed below for a total course load of 16 credits.

The following syllabi are either from a recent session of this program or for an upcoming session. 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 coming soon
(ANTH3500 / 4 credits / 60 class 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
(IBPH3500 / 4 credits / 60 class 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.
Public Health: From Biology to Policy – syllabus
(IBPH3505 / 4 credits / 60 class 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.
Community Health Research Methods – syllabus
(IBPH3510 / 4 credits / 60 class 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.

These letters home are from previous terms. Site locations may vary from term to term.

Letters Home: Health (Spring 2)

April 11, 2016
IHP Health and Community Track 2 Spring 2016 – Vietnam
Dear Friends and Family of the Northern Hemisphere,   Hello from the southern side of the equator! We thought we’d fill you in on our first international leg of this semester, in Vietnam.   We spent our first week in Lac Village, a rural area with rice paddies as far as the eye could see, […]
March 21, 2016
IHP Health and Community Track 2 Spring 2016 – A student reflection
Team USA Letter Home Written by: Laura McIntyre   Hey Mom and Dad, I’m writing this letter to you from a rooftop café in Hanoi, Vietnam. It is 80 degrees, and I’m here with two of the other girls on the program. This café has become one of our staple spots to hang out and […]
March 21, 2016
IHP Health and Community Track 2 Spring 2016 – San Francisco
February 5, 2016 Hello Everyone! We just spent the past two weeks exploring San Francisco examining three main areas of study: Public Health, Globalization, and Anthropology. Over the course of the semester we are going to analyze the complexity of issues surrounding health in a global context and interrogate the systems of power that embed […]

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

Sherrilyn ColgySherriLynn Colby-Bottel received her doctorate in cultural anthropology from the University of Virginia in 2012. She also completed a BA in anthropology (1998) and an MA in music (2001), with distinction, at California State University, Fresno. From 2005 to 2012, Dr. Colby-Bottel conducted ethnographic research in New Orleans, Louisiana, on disaster recovery, nonprofits, urban traditions, and community-based social activities. Her extensive research drew together many of the issues highlighted by disaster and recovery: how racial inequities align with health disparities, the impact of globalization on everyday life, the ethical considerations of representation and rebuilding, 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. The National Science Foundation and the University of Virginia Faculty Senate Fellowship award for scholarly achievement and excellence in teaching supported her longitudinal research.
SherriLynn is passionate about teaching, learning, and collaborative intellectual projects. She 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 been with SIT since 2011; she has coordinated programs for both the Health and the Cities programs in addition to serving as director for the Health and Community program. She 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.

Anna Gail Caunca, MA, Program Manager

Anna Gail Caunca

Anna Gail's previous work experience has focused on the areas of youth and young adult leadership development, community building, residential life and student welfare, international education, and human rights education. Building on her graduate studies in social justice and international education, Anna Gail worked with World Learning’s Youth Leadership and Peacebuilding Programs, facilitating workshops with the Governor’s Institute of Vermont on current issues and youth activism and traveling with and supporting students through the LondonX and Iraqi Youth Leadership Program for two years. In 2013, she traveled as the IHP Trustees’ Fellow for the inaugural year of the Human Rights: Foundations, Challenges, and Advocacy program. After four adventurous years living in Wellington, New Zealand, she is excited for a new chapter as the IHP program manager in 2015.

Anna Gail earned her BS in psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She graduated from SIT Graduate Institute with an MA in intercultural service, leadership, and management and received her educator’s licensure in secondary education in social studies, incorporating social justice in the classroom. She is a vegetarian, photographer-in-the-making, and running enthusiast with a hearty laugh.

LIndsey GilliesLindsey Gillies, Launch Coordinator, San Francisco

Lindsey is an alumna of the International Honors Program and is excited to be joining the Health and Community team as the Washington, DC, launch coordinator. Lindsey has been a Vermont licensed midwife (LM) and a certified professional midwife (CPM) since 2014. She has a passion for fertility work, nutrition, and herbal wellness and brings with her years of work in the areas of female empowerment and reproductive justice. She has served the Vermont community as both a birth doula and childbirth educator. Additionally, she has worked in mental health services with survivors of sexual abuse and trauma.

Her background includes a comprehensive academic and clinical training at Maternidad La Luz, a high-volume, freestanding birth center on the border in El Paso, Texas. Additionally, she successfully completed an intensive academic midwifery program with Mercy in Action in Boise, Idaho. Lindsey holds a BA in English and environmental studies from the University of Vermont.

Lindsey is one of the founding members of Rising Tide Vermont, with whom she has organized numerous direct action trainings and events across the northeast, and she is currently working on the campaign to stop the fracked gas pipeline. She also serves on the board of directors of the Global Justice Ecology Project.

Lindsey studied on an IHP program in 2008–2009 as an undergraduate. In the spring of 2015, she served as a Trustees’ Fellow with Health and Community. She is excited to return to work with IHP.

Vu Cong Nguyen MD, MPH, Country Coordinator, Vietnam

NguyenNguyen is the deputy director of the Institute of Population Health and Development. He was previously a director of the Family Health Research Center, a lecturer at Hanoi Medical School, a program officer with the United Nations Fund for Population Activities, and a program officer with Family Health International. Currently, Nguyen is leading several HIV/AIDS research and intervention projects in Vietnam that target most-at-risk populations. He and his staff are also implementing an HIV prevention project targeting young Vietnamese soldiers who are completing mandatory military service. Dr. Nguyen obtained his medical doctorate from Hanoi Medical School in 1993 and a master’s of public health at Brown University in 2005. His expertise includes health systems management, epidemiology, and biostatistics and their applications in public health research, with a special interest in HIV/AIDS. He is also a founder of the Vietnamese Society for HIV/AIDS Medicine and a member of the Vietnamese Public Health Association and American Public Health Association.

Jan G. Vermeulen, MComm, Country Coordinator, South Africa

Jan VermeulenJan commenced his career as a human resources practitioner in the private sector and became a business consultant focusing on executive development, change management, mentorship, performance management, and productivity. Since the early nineties he has worked toward poverty alleviation. In 1993, he relocated to Bushbuckridge, where he assisted with the set-up of Pfunanane Co-operative and Credit Union. He established the Bushbuckridge Local Business Service Centre in Acornhoek and Central Business Service Centre (now LIBSA). Recently, he has been consulting as a development practitioner and has been involved with research in natural resource business opportunities, income generation for households headed by children because of AIDS, community leadership development, monitoring and evaluation of the transformation program at Wits University, and tourism-based LED at Greater Tzaneen and Letaba municipalities. Jan obtained an MComm at North-West University. He is registered as a practicing industrial psychologist with the Health Professions Council of South Africa.

Carolina Rovetta, MFA, Country Coordinator, Argentina

Carolina RovettaCarolina holds a five-year degree in arts from the University of Buenos Aires and a postgraduate degree in contemporary cinema and theater. She has been working in the field of international education for many years and designs several academic and immersion programs in Argentina for students and institutions from abroad. Her focus is on the interaction between academic content and cultural sensitivity. Ms. Rovetta has written several pedagogical guides on cultural activities in immersion. She also is very interested in arts and culture and works as a cultural facilitator for the city of Buenos Aires. She first began working with IHP in 2005 and helped establish the Cities in the 21st Century program in Buenos Aires. From there, she was asked to design the Health and Community program and has been running this program since 2008.

Alison Heller, PhD, Traveling Faculty

As a medical anthropologist and a West Africanist, Alison’s interests include global and reproductive health, chronic disease and infertility, sexuality and gender, and development and humanitarianism. Dr. Heller holds a PhD in cultural anthropology from Washington University in St. Louis and has worked in West Africa for ten years on various projects in Togo, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Mali, and Niger. Funded by the National Science Foundation, the Fulbright Hays, and the Wenner-Gren Foundation, Ali’s research focuses on reproductive health in Niger. Specifically, Dr. Heller investigates the myriad consequences of and women’s strategies of coping with obstetric fistula, an injury sustained during childbirth that results in chronic incontinence. Her examination of the previously undocumented lives of women with fistula in Niger informs an emerging body of literature on global (particularly Western) representations of gendered suffering in the Global South through the analysis of lived experiences of women negotiating treatment seeking, social dynamics, and marital relationships. Additionally, Dr. Heller has experience as an ethnographic filmmaker, photographer, HIV/AIDS counselor, ESL instructor for immigrants and refugees, and popular press book researcher.

Luciana Serrano, Trustees’ Fellow

Luciana Serrano was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, but was brought up in Washington, DC, during her younger years. She then returned to Buenos Aires, and has been living there ever since. She is currently a student of social and cultural anthropology in the University of San Martin. She also studied history at Universidad Torcuato di Tella. In her academic settings she has participated in numerous research groups and projects that approach their subjects with an interdisciplinary lens.

She currently belongs to a multidisciplinary team that is working on designing a museographic artifact in a former clandestine detention center in Greater Buenos Aires to further promote collective memory and education in human rights. She has extensive training in photography, specializing in documentary and journalistic reporting. She has extensive experience in research and consulting for government offices, private actors, and NGOs in addressing urban issues. Luciana has worked as a researcher for the London School of Economics, the Master’s in Public Policy program at Torcuato di Tella University, an online news agency, a book on social rights and social policies, a prominent political consultancy firm, and the Federal Council of Public Affairs. She has volunteered for the Argentina chapter of HIPPY, an international project dedicated to the principles of equal educational opportunity and social inclusion, working with communities and families who face socio-economic challenges in helping parents and caregivers to nurture children’s readiness for school. She is an avid traveler and has had the chance to visit many countries in South America, Europe, Southeast Asia, Hong Kong, Israel, the West Bank, and India.

For the past four years Luciana has been a program director assistant in Argentina, working for both the Health and Community and the Cities in the 21st Century programs, assisting with logistics, financial organization, and traveling, and facilitating field and classroom activities. She is excited to be a part of the travelling staff for this Health and Community spring track.

homestay in South Africa

You will live with a host family for between three 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.

Homestay families provide you with the opportunity to live as an integrated member of the host communities. In sharing daily life, conversations, family stories, celebrations, and community events, you will not only learn a tremendous amount, but also develop lasting friendships.

Family structures vary in every place, and SIT values the diversity of homestay families. 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 are 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.

A diversity of students representing different colleges, universities, and majors study abroad on this program. Many of them have gone on to do amazing things that connect back to their experience abroad with SIT. Learn what some of them are now doing.

Recent positions held by alumni of this program include:

  • Co-Founder and Executive Director, Spark MicroGrants, New York, New York, and multiple locations in Africa
  • Managing Director, Food Loft, Boston, Massachusetts 
  • Intern, Office of Global Health Diplomacy, U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC
  • Primary Care Intern, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts
  • IHP: Health and Community: Globalization, Culture, and Care (Spring 2) is available only in the spring semester.
  • The spring semester generally begins in early January and ends in early May.

Student applications to this program will be reviewed on a rolling basis between the opening date and the deadline.

Application Deadline:   Nov 1, 2015


SIT Pell Grant Match Award. SIT Study Abroad provides matching grants to all students receiving Federal Pell Grant funding; this award can be applied to any SIT semester program. View all SIT Study Abroad scholarships.

Tuition: Not yet available.

The tuition fee covers the following program components:

  • Content and logistics for field programs in San Francisco, Hanoi, Johannesburg/Bushbuckridge, and Buenos Aires
  • 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
  • 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: Not yet available.

The room and board fee covers the following program components:

  • All accommodations during the entire program 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 Hanoi, Johannesburg/Bushbuckridge, and Buenos Aires
  • All meals for the entire program period. Meals are covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend, or through the homestay.  

Estimated Additional Costs:

International Airfare to Program Launch Site

International 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.

Immunizations: Varies

International Phone: Each student must have a phone in each country. Cost varies according to personal preferences, phone plans, data plans, etc.

Discretionary Expenses

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.


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