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 to health 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.

Washington, DC, US

(2 weeks)
Washington, DCThe 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. Hear from global health experts at international NGOs, while observing firsthand how health inequities affect those living within earshot of 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. By meeting with locals, you will examine how inequities in these factors have led to some of our country’s worst health outcomes. Over the course of two weeks in DC, you will gain deeper insight into the many challenges of and solutions to health and disease at the national and local levels while preparing for your exploration of similar issues internationally. 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 delve into the four interdisciplinary courses that make up the Health and Community program while connecting with new friends and exploring the political heart of the nation.

Hanoi, Vietnam

(4 weeks)
One of Southeast Asia's most vibrant and rapidly developing nations, Vietnam has succeeded in dramatically reducing poverty, yet considerable challenges remain. Some of the country’s 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 a weeklong stay in Lac Village where you will visit ethnic Thai and Hmong villages in the surrounding hillsides.

Cape Town, South Africa

South Africa(5 weeks)

The complex colonial and apartheid history of South Africa has entrenched a social, economic, and political climate that remains part of the country’s contemporary condition. Disparity of wealth and unequal distribution of resources provide a distinct backdrop to analyze and explore how the country’s past affects South Africans’ ability to access quality healthcare with dignity. You will spend time in two distinct areas: one near Cape Town’s central business district in a diverse, predominantly working-class, neighborhood; the other in a less urban space just outside of the greater Cape Town area. These distinct locations will allow you to see and experience, firsthand, communities in transition, and how political and economic structures affect health and community life. South Africa faces an increasing number of public health crises, with the HIV/AIDS and TB epidemics at the fore. During the program’s stay in South Africa, you will investigate how informal economies survive amidst the more robust and regulated formal economy and how such relationships affect community and individual health as well as how sustainable livelihoods are challenged and how this might shape the health and wellbeing of families and communities. You will have the opportunity to meet and interact with community activists, physicians, public health practitioners, and officials as they seek to understand domestic and community health in a country whose citizens are deeply committed to radical political, social, and economic transformation. The final week of this program segment is the vacation period in which you are free to explore other parts of South Africa with your fellow IHP program mates.

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. While in Buenos Aires, you will visit a variety of healthcare settings, from primary health centers to regional hospitals. During the rural stay, panels with agricultural producers and health workers provide insights into the specificities of health access in remote areas. The program concludes with a three-day retreat outside of Buenos Aires.


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
(ANTH3500 / 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
(IBPH3500 / 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
(IBPH3505 / 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
(IBPH3510 / 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 will 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.

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. Along with her role as program manager, Belle is an assistant faculty member in the Global Studies Department at Azusa Pacific University in Los Angeles, CA.

Susan SakashSusan Sakash, MA, Program Coordinator and Launch Coordinator, Washington, DC

Susan Sakash lives in New Orleans, Louisiana. In 2015 she received a master’s degree in social innovation and sustainability from Goddard College. 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. 

For the past fifteen years, Susan has explored questions of how people and communities grow stronger through practicing mutual aid and collective action. Her approaches to this inquiry have run the gamut — from curating socially engaged public art projects in Dublin, Ireland, to living in intentional communities in Costa Rica, to organizing community gardens and street music festivals around the US. She started working with SIT in the fall of 2014 as the Health and Community program’s New Orleans launch coordinator; she has also run and supported program launches in San Francisco and Washington, DC. Susan's free time is consumed by playing the trombone in a number of New Orleans brass bands, roasting her own coffee, and maintaining an active compost pile at a neighborhood community garden. 

Vu Cong Nguyen MD, MPH, Country Coordinator, Vietnam

NguyenDr. Vu Cong Nguyen 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 in the US 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.

WintertonLaura Winterton, MA, Country Coordinator, South Africa

Laura Winterton is currently completing her PhD in social anthropology at the University of Edinburgh. She holds a Wellcome Trust scholarship as part of a larger project, Understanding TB Control: Technologies, Ethics and Programmes. Laura’s research is based in Cape Town, South Africa, where she examines the legal, social, and ethical dimensions of TB care to prisoner populations. Her work moves between the clinic, court, correctional facilities, and communities as a way to explore the complexity of delivery and receiving uninterrupted TB treatment to such a vulnerable population. She completed a master’s degree in social anthropology at the University of Cape Town in 2013. Her research interests are focused on the ethics of DR-TB and HIV care, psychosocial aspects of treatment, human rights and health, and the history of infectious diseases.

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.

Laura Steil, PhD, Traveling Faculty

SteilDr. Laura Steil is an anthropologist interested in the dynamics of global cities. She looks at ways cultural and social phenomena are shaped by disparities of power and capital and by transnational flows of people, goods, and images. Her research focuses on marginalized groups, such as migrants and their children, who are also known as “post-migrants.” She is especially interested in mental health and explores how the psychological repercussions of exile, marginalization, and discrimination are made sense of and dealt with by combining “traditional” and biomedical systems of interpretation and healing. In past years, she taught medical anthropology in a nursing college located in a poor Parisian outer city; co-designed an interdisciplinary course on the urban experience bridging anthropology, psychology, and architecture; and worked in a hospital unit approaching mental health from a transcultural perspective.

Laura recently obtained her PhD in anthropology from the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes in Paris, France. Her doctoral thesis approaches Parisian urban dance scenes as a lens for understanding how French young people of African and Caribbean descent negotiate social mobility and political visibility through cultural practice. Her research explores ways in which non-professional dancers sustain and improve their material lives, negotiate social standing, and navigate between different, often conflicting, social worlds. Laura’s latest work explores how meaning is inscribed in urban space, through politics of appropriateness and regimes of presence that regulate behavior and mobility in the city. Overall, her research highlights the role of ambiguity for enabling agency and empowering people who suffer from systematic Othering.

Laura is passionate about teaching and mentoring students, and believes anthropology is meaningful well beyond the classroom. Her approach to teaching and ethnography is largely inspired by her dance practice and gives central importance to the body, the senses, and affects. She loves experimenting with new methods of inquiry and is committed to taking seriously, and questioning, the trivial.

SerranoLuciana Serrano, Trustees’ Fellow

Luciana Serrano was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, but spent a few of her first years in Washington, DC. She is currently a student of social and cultural anthropology at the University of San Martin. She is mostly interested in the study of informality in Latin America at the intersection of postcolonial and urban studies, with emphasis on the co-production of habitat and participatory practices. Luciana has extensive training in photography, specializing in documentary and journalistic reporting. She has conducted collaborative research in numerous groups and projects that approach their subjects through an interdisciplinary lens. For the past four years Luciana has been the field assistant to the country coordinator in Argentina, working with both the IHP: Health and Community program and the IHP: Cities in the 21st Century program. She was the Trustees’ Fellow for IHP: Health and Community in spring 2016 and is looking forward to going on the road again with IHP in spring 2017!

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 Washington, DC. Homestays are the primary form of accommodation on the program; other accommodations can include guest houses, hostels, dormitories, and 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 or groups of three, 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
  • Policy Advisor, Executive Office of the President, Office of Science and Technology Policy, Washington, DC
  • 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
  • Founder, TruthOut (LGBTQ volunteer-matching social enterprise), San Francisco, CA

Program Dates: Spring 2017

Program Arrival Date:  Jan 22, 2017

Program Departure Date:    May 13, 2017

The dates listed above are subject to change. Please note that travel to and from the program site may span a period of more than one day.

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

Application Deadline:   Nov 3, 2016


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: $18,000

The tuition fee covers the following program components:

  • Content and logistics for field programs in Washington, DC; Hanoi; Cape Town; 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, including food and accommodation during the vacation period, are not covered by program fees; students are responsible for this.

Airfare: $4,500

  • Group airfare during the program (beginning when students leave the US)
  • 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 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, Cape Town, and Buenos Aires
  • 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

Immunizations: Varies

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.

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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