Learn about public health through traditional medicine and intercultural health practices, indigenous customs, community welfare, and social justice.
Learn about healthcare policies, politics, and delivery with a special emphasis on indigenous communities and traditional medicine.
Experience Chile’s health system firsthand with guided visits to public and private health centers and conversations with bio- and ethno-medical practitioners.
Examine national healthcare policies and intercultural and alternative healing in urban and rural Chile.
You will consider different concepts of health, disease, and wellness, including beliefs and health practices of the Aymara and Mapuche indigenous peoples.
Gain global perspectives from the program base in Arica.
Arica is historically home to indigenous peoples and ethnic communities of African descent, plus a wide array of immigrants from throughout Latin America and the world. Despite these communities’ shared geography, there are major differences in cultural worldviews, health practices, and equal and equitable access to health services. Given Arica’s strategic location on the borders of Peru and Bolivia, you will be able to examine healthcare from unique international perspectives. You will learn about cross-border issues and initiatives concerning health policy on topics including primary healthcare and infectious disease management (for example, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis).
Learn from and engage with government, medical, academic and indigenous sources.
On this program, you will engage with Faculty members at the Universidad de Tarapacá, medical health professionals, national and local government health officials and policy makers, intercultural medicine practitioners, communities and health centers where traditional medicine is practiced, and local university students in urban and rural settings.
Conduct field study and learn public health research methods.
Learn how to collect, analyze, integrate, and report social and public health data to understand and assess public health and intercultural issues. Field studies may include designing a research project, writing a research proposal, interviewing, conducting surveys, and maintaining a field journal. Field study methods could include concepts and objectives of scientific research, basic techniques used in public health research, data collection and analysis, ethics of public health projects and research, and the World Learning / SIT Human Subjects Review Policy.
Choose to intern at a health facility, social, community or indigenous organization, nonprofit institution, or university or to conduct independent research.
Learn traditional medicine from shamans and traditional birth attendants.
Critical Global Issue of Study
Previous college-level coursework in public and/or global health, development studies, anthropology, community and/or social sciences, or other related fields. At least four recent semesters of college-level Spanish or equivalent, and the ability to comprehend (as assessed by SIT) coursework conducted entirely in Spanish (including lectures, seminars, active student participation, and all course reading and writing assignments).
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Key Topics of Study
Key Topics of Study
- Chile’s national and indigenous healthcare systems
- The specific health needs and practices of indigenous populations
- Social, economic, political, structural, and ideological determinants of public health planning, practices, and outcomes
- Diversity of healing and spiritual beliefs
- Health of women, children, teenagers, the elderly, and other potentially vulnerable populations
- Public health, community participation, and community empowerment
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.
- Public Health in Chile – syllabus
- (IPBH3000 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- Through this interdisciplinary seminar, students examine theoretical and practical approaches to healthcare delivery in Chilean communities that include both urban and rural contexts. Students explore the relationship between public health, social justice, and community welfare; reproductive and sexual health; HIV/AIDS; mental health issues; and differences between national and private health systems. All coursework is conducted in Spanish.
- Traditional Medicine and Community Health – syllabus
- (IPBH3005 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- In this second seminar, students learn about traditional healthcare practices in Chile and analyze the role of these practices in overall community health. The course focuses on the Mapuche and Aymara peoples in particular. Students explore these indigenous conceptualizations of health and healing, the connection between healing and spiritual beliefs, and indigenous cosmovisions. Intercultural health and challenges to “legitimizing” and “mainstreaming” traditional indigenous healthcare are studied. Disparities in healthcare access among diverse populations are also analyzed. All coursework is conducted in Spanish.
- Spanish for the Health Sciences I – syllabus
- (SPAN2003 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- Spanish for the Health Sciences II – syllabus
- (SPAN2503 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- Spanish for the Health Sciences III – syllabus
- (SPAN3003 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- Spanish for the Health Sciences IV – syllabus
- (SPAN3503 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- In this course, students hone their speaking, reading, and writing skills through classroom and field instruction. Students read professional health science literature as they learn the formal terms and local expressions needed to discuss health policy issues, to conduct field research, and to interact in settings (e.g., clinics and community health centers) related to the program themes. Students are placed in small classes based on an in-country evaluation that tests both written and oral proficiency.
- Public Health Research Methods and Ethics – syllabus
- (IPBH3500 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- This research methods course is designed to prepare students for an Independent Study Project or internship. Through lectures, readings, and field activities, students study and practice a range of methods appropriate for researching health topics. They examine the ethical issues surrounding field research related to public health and are guided through the World Learning / SIT Human Subjects Review process, which forms a core component of the course. By the end of the course, students will have chosen a research topic or internship, selected appropriate methods, and written a solid proposal for an Independent Study Project or internship related to public health, traditional medicine, and community empowerment in Chile. All coursework is conducted in Spanish.
In addition to taking the above courses, students will also need to enroll in one of the following two courses:
- Independent Study Project – syllabus
- (ISPR3000 / 4 credits / 120 hours)
- Conducted in Arica, Santiago, Valparaíso, Temuco, or other approved locations appropriate to the project, the Independent Study Project offers students the opportunity to conduct field research on a topic of their choice or perform a health practicum within the program's thematic parameters. The project integrates learning from the various components of the program, and culminates in a final presentation and formal research paper. Students may choose to incorporate a guided practicum experience into the project as well. Sample topic areas: women's health; community outreach; drug and alcohol treatment; traditional and intercultural health; Chilean health policy; AIDS treatment promotion and prevention policies; indigenous health practices; epidemiology; etc.
- Internship and Seminar – syllabus
- (ITRN3000 / 4 credits / 120 hours)
- This seminar consists of a four-week internship with a health facility; a social, community, or indigenous organization; a nonprofit institution; or a university in Arica, Putre, Makewe, or Santiago. The aim of the internship is to enable the student to gain valuable work experience and to enhance their skills in an international work environment. Students will complete an internship and submit a paper in which they process their learning experience on the job, analyze an issue important to the organization, and/or design a socially responsible solution to a problem identified by the organization. The internship will be conducted in Spanish.
Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.
Educational excursions are an important component of this program and provide different contexts in which to examine healthcare delivery. Program excursions may include field visits to public health centers throughout Arica and the surrounding valleys, including community medical centers, hospitals, public health centers, rural health facilities, mental health centers, and women’s health centers.
Longer excursions include traveling to the rural area of Putre in the high plains (altiplano), where the Aymara people of Chile originate, and Temuco in southern Chile, home to the indigenous Mapuche nation.
Putre (northern Chile)
During a seven-day excursion to the Chilean highlands you will study the health practices and beliefs of the Aymara people. You will see a rural health system, Chile’s intercultural health practices, alternative medicine, and the Aymara cosmovision. You will also experience northern Chile’s impressive natural beauty at Chungara Lake, Lauca National Park, and the Lauca Biosphere Reserve.
Temuco/Makewe (Mapuche Territory)
On this 10-day excursion you will visit a Chilean intercultural hospital in the town of Makewe outside the city of Temuco, and you will explore health beliefs and practices of the Mapuche people and access to alternative methods of healthcare. You will debate multiculturalism in relation to healthcare, and you will have the opportunity to learn how healthcare policies and politics directly affect indigenous people and contribute to discrimination and social marginalization. You will also have the opportunity to see the region’s beautiful volcanoes, valleys, and forests.
During a five-day visit to the capital, you will visit the Chilean Ministry of Health, speak with national health policymakers, and visit organizations striving to improve access to healthcare for marginalized and vulnerable populations. You will also get a close look at the work of community-based and advocacy groups focusing on the rights of indigenous migrants to urban areas, including the Aymara, Mapuche, and Rapa Nui peoples.
Faculty and Staff
Faculty and Staff
Brian B. Johnson, PhD, MPH, MA, Academic Director
Brian is a cultural medical anthropologist whose academic and professional specializations include critical perspectives on health, medicine, and healing; traditional medicine and intercultural health; violence and social suffering; political and social movements; and indigeneity in the Americas, primarily the Andean region. He holds a PhD in socio-medical sciences and anthropology from Columbia University and master’s degrees in public health and Latin American studies from UCLA. Brian has lived and worked for more than 20 years in Latin American countries—primarily Bolivia, where he has collaborated with national governments, nongovernmental organizations, and indigenous social organizations on projects for primary healthcare, community health, and social development. In the United States, Brian has worked with community programs promoting healthcare access for underserved populations in Los Angeles and New York City and as a visiting professor at Trinity College in Connecticut, where he taught medical anthropology, the political economy of health and disease, and introductory classes in sociocultural anthropology. Prior to becoming academic director in Chile, he was traveling faculty with SIT’s IHP: Health and Community: Globalization, Culture, and Care program, conducting courses focused on medical anthropology, public health, and research methods in Brazil, South Africa, and India.
Daniel Poblete, Academic Coordinator
Daniel received his doctorate in social anthropology, with a specialization in cultural diversity and citizenship, at the Complutense University of Madrid, Spain. His professional focus is on cultural recognition, including the study of intercultural and multicultural issues in Chile and throughout Latin America. A native of Santiago, he has conducted ethnographic work for more than a decade in northern and southern Chile and internationally in the Ecuadorian Andes and with groups of Ecuadorian migrants in Madrid.
Norma Contreras, Student Services Coordinator
Norma holds a professional degree in administrative management from the University of Tarapacá in Arica. She has been with SIT since 2013 and is responsible for arranging and monitoring student homestays as well as the overall care of student health and personal needs. Previously, Norma and her family were a homestay family for SIT students.
Clara Salinas, Language Coordinator
Clara Salinas holds a master’s degree in intercultural bilingual education and a bachelor’s degree in language and communication from the University of Tarapacá. She has worked with SIT since 2014. Clara has been a teacher in higher education and an instructor at the University of Tarapacá, teaching classes in oral and written expression and mass media as a learning tool.
Faculty and lecturers may include:
Fresia Caba Burgos, PhD, MPH
Fresia received her doctorate in public health with a specialization in epidemiology from Mexico’s National Institute of Public Health. She also holds a master’s degree in public health from the University of Chile, degrees in biological sciences and health management from Galilee College in Israel, and degrees in epidemiology and qualitative methods. She has more than 20 years’ experience teaching undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Chile, the University of Tarapacá, and the University of Santiago.
Roxana Gálvez, MS
Roxana completed a BA at the University of Tarapacá in midwifery, obstetrics, and neonatology. She also holds a degree in logistical management and has a postgraduate degree in HIV/AIDS education. In 2000, she joined the Health Service of Arica, directing HIV/AIDS prevention projects. In 2001, she joined the Dr. Juan Noé Hospital as the head midwife in charge of the Center of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (presently UNACESS), a position she holds today. She coordinated the regional working group of HIV/AIDS advisors from 2000 to 2006 and is still an integral member of that committee.
Patricia Huber, MD, MPH
Patricia studied medicine at the University of Concepción and completed postgraduate work in public health at the University of Chile. She also holds a master’s degree in epidemiology and occupational health from the University of Chile and a certificate in social management and public policy from the Faculty of Social Sciences in Chile. She is medical director at the Arica center of the TELETON Foundation. Between 2005 and 2008, she led the Health Service of Arica’s Epidemiology Unit and later headed the Department of Information in Health and Production Services for Health.
Ester López, PS, SW, MHR
Ester is head of the Mental Health Unit of the Health Service of Arica, in charge of mental health teams and community psychiatry. She has a degree in social work from the University of Valparaíso and a degree in psychology from the University of Tarapacá. She also holds certification in rationalist mental psychotherapy from the Institute of Mental Therapy of Santiago. She graduated with a certificate in family mediation from the Technological University of Chile, and she holds a master’s degree in human resources management from the University Arturo Prat and the University of Valparaíso.
Rodrigo Valencia Severino, MPH, MBA
Rodrigo works in the Department for Coordination of Medical Networks in the Arica Municipal Health Services. He has a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Valparaíso and a master’s degree in public health with a concentration in public health promotion from the University of Chile’s School of Public Health. He received an MBA from the University del Mar in the management of public health centers and institutions. He also holds a master’s degree in participatory management and healthy communities from the Complutense University of Madrid. He has experience teaching in the primary pedagogy in education and preschool programs at the University of Tarapacá.
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.
During your time in Chile, you will have the opportunity to live with three homestay families who can offer insight into the relationship between families, health, and well-being. You will deepen and challenge your emerging understanding of family and community in three different sites, comparing urban mestizo to rural indigenous communities, thus allowing you to form a more comprehensive understanding of each.
Host families come from different social and cultural backgrounds. You will typically enjoy breakfast and lunch with them, and on weekends you may enjoy sharing family activities together, which could include birthday, anniversary, or other family celebrations.
Homestay locations will include the following:
Urban Homestay in Arica
You will stay for seven weeks with a carefully selected family in a residential neighborhood of Arica.
Rural Homestay in Putre
During your second homestay, for six days with an Aymara family in high-altitude Putre, you will be able to participate in daily activities typical of this small, slow-paced town while learning about traditional medicine practices from such community leaders as shamans and traditional birth attendants.
Rural Homestay in Makewe
The six-day homestay in the rural village of Makewe, near the city of Temuco, is with an indigenous Mapuche family. You will share in daily community life, which might include farming, animal care, or meal preparation. All homestays are in the immediate vicinity of the Mapuche Intercultural Hospital, and health-related activities are common.
Independent Study Project
Independent Study Project
Conducted in Arica, Santiago, Valparaíso, Temuco, or other approved locations appropriate to the project, the Independent Study Project offers you an opportunity to conduct field research on a topic of your choice. You may also choose to incorporate a guided practicum experience into the project.
Sample topic areas:
- Women’s and children’s health
- Community outreach
- Drug and alcohol treatment
- Traditional and intercultural health
- Sexual and reproductive health
- Chilean health policy
- Mental health
- HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention policies
- Indigenous health practices
- Infectious and chronic disease conditions
- Social, economic, political, structural, and ideological determinants of health
A wide range of students participate in this program, representing different colleges, universities, and majors. Many of them have gone on to pursue academic or professional work that connects back to their experience abroad with SIT. Recent positions held by alumni of this program include:
- MD/MPH student at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine, Miami, FL
- Bilingual agricultural safety educator at the New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health, New York, NY
- Medical student at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, Los Angeles, CA
- Member of the healthcare reform team at Planned Parenthood of Northern New England
- Maternal health birth doula through AmeriCorps at Sea Mar Community Health Centers, Seattle, WA
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:
- Cost of all lecturers who provide instruction to students in:
- Health, society, and culture
- Public health, community welfare, and social justice
- Chilean public health policies
- Alternative health practices
- Public Health Research Methods and Ethics course and Human Subjects Review
- Intensive language instruction in Spanish (with a focus on medical Spanish)
- All educational excursions to locations such as Tacna, Santiago, and Temuco (Mapuche region)
- Independent Study Project / internship (including a stipend for accommodation and food)
- Health insurance throughout the entire program period
Room & Board: $4,475
The room and board fee covers the following program components:
- All accommodations during the entire program period. This includes during orientation, time in the program base (Arica), on all excursions, during the Independent Study Project / internship, and during the final evaluation period. Accommodation is covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend provided to each student, or through the homestay.
- All homestays (seven weeks in Arica, six days in Putre, and six days in Makewe, plus an optional rural homestay during the Independent Study Project / internship period, depending on the student’s ISP topic / internship site)
- 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.
Visa Expenses: $200
Books & Supplies: $ 50
International Phone: Each student must have a phone in each country. Cost varies according to personal preferences, phone plans, data plans, etc.
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.
If you choose to complete an internship during the last four weeks of this program, you will be placed with a local organization to gain work experience related to the program’s theme and to develop professional skills you can use in your career. SIT internships are hands-on and reflective. In addition to completing the internship, you will submit a paper about your learning experience on the job and analyzing an issue important to the organization you worked with. You may also design a socially responsible solution to a problem identified by the organization.
Interning in Chile
The internship on this program may be completed at a health facility; a social, community, or indigenous organization; a nonprofit institution; a university; or another institution. SIT works with organizations that are well known in the fields of health, indigenous affairs, community development, and Chilean politics.
During your internship, you will do work assigned to you by the organization. You will also investigate problems the organization faces and possible solutions to them. Each institution will designate a mentor to guide your work so that your internship is relevant to the mission and vision of the organization and to the context and needs of the country.
Topics and placements vary according to need and availability at our partner institutions, but examples of internships include:
- Working in intercultural health, health of indigenous peoples, and sexually transmitted diseases among indigenous populations at Red Nacional de Pueblos Originarios (RENPO)
- Assisting efforts in public health advocacy, health education, primary health care, maternal and child health, chronic care at Red de Centros de Salud Familiar (CESFAM)
- Providing education and rehabilitation for children with physical and developmental disabilities at Teletón
- Providing intercultural bilingual education and promoting intercultural health at a private school in Chol Chol (Mapuche territory)
- Assisting social, artistic, and physical therapy for patients with Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease at Centro de Estudios de Trastornos del Movimiento