Explore the links between public health, policy advocacy, and community in India, with a focus on marginalized and vulnerable populations.
Study in New Delhi, India’s central hub for policymakers and organizations active in the field of public health.
The program is based in New Delhi, home to more than three hundred international and a thousand local NGOs actively involved in health and development. The National Human Rights Commission, National Commission for Women, and other rights-focused organizations are headquartered here. New Delhi has an extensive public transportation system, many parks and green spaces such as Lodhi gardens, sports facilities, and dozens of historical monuments and cultural associations. The city sees itself as both cosmopolitan and distinctively representative of its ancient roots. You will have access to the city’s many academic institutions and resources, including its excellent libraries, to advance your learning.
Focus on women, children, tribal communities and other vulnerable populations.
Spend extensive time in under-resourced communities to understand caste- and gender-based oppression. Learn about India’s disability rights movement, medicine systems, maternal and child health, and community health efforts.
Participate in a weeklong workshop with an Indian NGO or public health institution.
You will spend one week with a local organization or individual actively working for public health and positive change in India. Working individually or in a group of three or four, you will examine health-related work firsthand, integrating fieldwork techniques such as formal and informal interviewing and participant observation into your process of understanding public health. The week will give you practical, field-based experience in preparation for the Independent Study Project or internship. Possible workshop sites in India include Prayas, KIRAN Centre, CRHP Jamkhed, Kayakalp, Aarohi, and Naz Foundation (India) Trust.
You will receive instruction in standard Khari Boli Hindi. The four-credit course emphasizes speaking and comprehension skills through classroom and field instruction. You will be expected to practice your language skills outside the classroom by using Hindi in daily life, particularly with host families and during the workshop.
Spend extensive time in the field.
This program examines the relationship between public health and community in a field-study context. You will analyze specific case studies that illuminate the problems, prospects, and potential methods of promoting health. You’ll also examine policy advocacy efforts for realizing the right to health on the national and international levels and relevant public health schemes and programs in India.
Choose an Independent Study Project or internship to enhance your intercultural and professional skills.
Key Topics of Study
Key Topics of Study
- Social determinants of health (poverty, gender, oppression, caste, and hierarchy) and health equity and social justice
- The scourge of malnutrition, failure of the health system, and response of the community
- Public health systems in India: traditional, Ayurveda, homeopathy, Unani, and allopathy
- The political economy of health (globalization, the WTO, the IMF, and World Bank)
- Regional and grassroots approaches to improving access to healthcare
- Major debilitating diseases such as TB, malaria, and polio
- Issues and challenges pertaining to mental health
- “Health” and its relationship to human fulfillment
- International principles of right to health
- Status of reproductive and child health
- Privatization of medical education
- Potential ways to promote health
- Policy advocacy for health
- Health tourism
Faculty and Staff
Faculty and Staff
Azim Khan, PhD, Academic Director
Azim has been an academic director for SIT since 2008. He earned his PhD in health and human rights from Aligarh Muslim University. His thesis focused on sex-selective abortions and effectiveness of prenatal diagnostic techniques legislation in India. He earned an MA in human rights from the University of London, a Master of Laws from Aligarh Muslim University, and Bachelor of Laws with distinction in constitutional law from the University of Lucknow.
Azim received the Ford Foundation International Fellowship for Human Rights for academic excellence, leadership, and commitment to community. He’s worked with universities in India and the US, teaching human rights, public health, and development. Azim has been a consultant and researcher for NGOs and international organizations, including the UN. He was a facilitator for SIT / World Learning and Ford Foundation’s Leadership for Social Justice Program in Washington, DC. In 2007, he was awarded a Scholar of Peace fellowship by the Foundation for Universal Responsibility of His Holiness the Dalai Lama for peace initiatives in Gujarat. He hosted of a weekly show on contemporary social justice and human rights issues and co-founded several Indian organizations. He has also been a media and political analyst for the US government.
Jayanti Singh, MD, Senior Faculty
Jayanti is a medical doctor associated with the Intensified Malaria Control Project II and other programs related to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. She provides monitoring and evaluation for the seven northeastern states of India. Jayanti designed and executed a midline assessment study of the impact of nurses’ training on holistic care for people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHAs) for India’s national AIDS control program.
Jayanti worked for UNICEF’s polio eradication program for four years, dealing with the challenges of a varied population—including an influx of laborers—and tenuous infrastructure in Uttar Pradesh. She represented that program during the 2009 annual meeting of the US Fund for UNICEF. She led surveillance and operations for the World Health Organization’s national polio surveillance project in India. As deputy director of immunization for PATH, she organized Japanese encephalitis immunization campaigns. She was in-house physician for the national Indian women’s soccer team during the Asian Championship in 2000.
Anjali Capila, PhD
Anjali is a professor at Lady Irwin College in Delhi University. She authored Images of Women in the Folk Songs of Garhwal Himalayas (2002) and Traditional Health Practices of Kumaoni Women: Continuity and Change (2004). She teaches communication systems, media planning, and advocacy. She is deeply involved with planning and organizing department activities with rural and semi-urban communities.
Ashutosh is a Panchakarma expert with a practice of holistic and traditional treatments mentioned in Ayurveda. He has treated patients all over the world. Along with a Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery degree from Goa University’s Gomantak Ayurveda Mahavidyalya & Research Centre, Ashutosh holds a postgraduate certificate in Panchakarma from Kasturba Medical College, Manipal University, Karnataka. He has presented and published scientific papers across India and translated Ayurvedic Anatomy from Marathi to Hindi. He is an avid blogger and writer.
Rajeev, a clinical doctor from the Himalayan state Uttarakhand, has extensive experience with health programs and is knowledgeable about traditional medicine and global public health issues. He specializes in health policy, planning, and program management. He holds an undergraduate degree in Ayurveda and a master’s degree in international health management and development from the University of Birmingham, UK. Rajeev has helped plan interventions under the National Rural Health Mission and for the Urban Health Mission. He works with the Himalayan Institute of Hospital Trust, a graduate medical college and hospital in Uttarakhand. Since 2008, he has been vice president of the Global Education and Health Forum. His primary research interests are traditional healthcare, public health, institutional development, and health policy planning.
Abid Siraj, MA, Academic Coordinator
Abid holds a master’s degree in social work, specializing in reproductive and child health. He assists the academic director and helps students with Independent Study Project proposals. Abid worked for a USAID-funded project on the role of local self-government in the promotion of reproductive and child health and coordinated the Community-Based Distribution Project of Family Planning Methods. He was part of a team pioneering a public health program for India’s National Rural Health Mission. Abid was involved with UNICEF’s intensive immunization of pulse polio in Uttar Pradesh. He has been a visiting faculty member for SIT Study Abroad.
Bhavna Singh, Senior Faculty and Homestay Coordinator
Bhavna has worked with SIT Study Abroad since 2004. She is part of the lead team to inspire students to speak and dream in Hindi. She holds a BA from Lucknow University and recently completed a postgraduate diploma in rural development with a specialization in public health in India.
Bhavna previously conducted Hindi workshops for Japanese and Canadian students. She is fluent in English, Hindi, Rajasthani, Avadhi, and Nepalese. She is an athlete and Kathak dancer.
Goutam Merh, MA, Senior Faculty and Excursion Coordinator
Goutam earned a master’s degree from Banaras Hindu University in Varanasi, India, in 1989. He has taught Hindi for more than 12 years for study abroad programs in India and worked with Antioch University’s Buddhist studies program and for On-Site Language Service’s International Language Learning program. Goutam previously worked with SIT’s India: Sustainable Development and Social Change program.
Goutam is fluent in Hindi, Bangala, Gujarati, Bhojpuri, Brij, and English and is an expert on Indian culture and development.
Archna Merh, MA, Senior Faculty and Student Affairs Coordinator
Archna has taught for SIT Study Abroad in India since 2008, most recently with the Sustainable Development and Social Change program. She holds a master’s degree in English literature and a bachelor's in education from Rajasthan University. She has taught for study abroad programs for more than 12 years and is affiliated with On-Site Language Services. She has in-depth knowledge of Indian cultures and traditions and assists her students with cross-cultural learning. She is fluent in Hindi, Gujarati, and English. Her favorite pastimes include dancing, reading, and traveling.
Meenu Bhambhani, Lecturer
Meenu is a prominent disability rights and social justice activist. She is head of global corporate social responsibility for Mphasis. She was previously an Independent Study Project advisor for SIT. In 2009, Meenu was awarded the prestigious NCPEDP-Shell Helen Keller Award. She has promoted employment for persons with disabilities and has been recognized as a role model for persons with disabilities.
Program in a minute-ish
The India: Public Health, Gender, and Community Action program studies the relationship between public health and the community in a field-study context. Students analyze specific case studies that illuminate the problems, prospects, and potential methods of promoting health, healthcare access, and equity. Students also examine policy advocacy efforts for the right to health on the national and international levels, along with relevant best health practices including the international health bill of rights.
The program includes five credit-bearing courses:
- Two thematic seminars that incorporate educational excursions and a one-week public health NGO workshop in India or Sri Lanka
- Hindi intensive language course: beginning and intermediate levels
- Field Methods and Ethics
- Independent Study Project or public health internship
The program facilitates experiential learning and the values of active global citizenship for all students.
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: Key Determinants, Gender, and Equity – syllabus
- (IPBH3010 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- This course explores the theoretical link between access to and reliance on Indian healthcare services and the concepts of the right to health of individuals and communities in an Indian social and political context. Questions include: What does the term “right to health” mean to Indians? Who determines who is granted the right to health? How do gender, caste, and poverty affect access to healthcare? How are policies framed and communities engaged to improve access to healthcare? Excursions to and workshops in urban and rural areas will provide context for understanding the nuances of public health and human rights. Conditions permitting, these areas will include Bahraich, Udaipur, Varanasi, Jamkhed, Dharamsala, and Nainital.
- Health Rights Advocacy in South Asia – syllabus
- (IPBH3020 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- What roles do NGOs play in health rights advocacy and community health education? Through lectures, an excursion to Udaipur, and hands-on participation in a one-week workshop with an NGO, students examine systems of health care and investigate the delivery of public health services in India. A critical component of this course is the week-long Public Health Capacity-Building Workshop in India or Sri Lanka, which provides important experiential learning opportunities in advance of the Independent Study Project (ISP) or internship during the final month of the program.
- Beginning Hindi – syllabus
- (HIND1003-1503 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- Intermediate Hindi – syllabus
- (HIND2003-2503 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- Emphasis is on speaking and comprehension skills through classroom and field instruction. Students acquire a solid foundation in standard Khari Boli Hindi to enable interaction with speakers of Hindi in North India and all over the world. It is expected that students will take the opportunity to make rapid progress in both speaking and listening comprehension by using Hindi outside of class as much as possible, particularly with homestay family members. Although we expect that dedicated students will acquire a strong, functional ability to communicate in Hindi, students wishing to interact substantively with Hindi speakers should nevertheless expect extensive collaboration with a translator for their Independent Study Project (ISP). Based on in-country evaluation, including oral proficiency testing, students are placed in beginning or intermediate classes.
- Field Methods and Ethics in Social Science and Health – syllabus
- (ANTH3500 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- The concepts and skills introduced in Field Methods and Ethics unite and reinforce all other program components and are put to the test through the execution and successful completion of an Independent Study Project or internship. Material includes cross-cultural adaptation and skills building; project selection and refinement; appropriate methodologies; field study ethics and the World Learning / SIT Human Subjects Review Policy; developing contacts and finding resources; developing skills in observation and interviewing; gathering, organizing, and communicating data; and maintaining a work journal. The Field Methods and Ethics course examines public health indicators and helps students understand why some indicators are selected or important. The course includes helping students understand how and why studies are conducted in health and human rights; considerations for conducting such studies, including human subjects and ethical issues central to the World Learning / SIT Human Subjects Review Policy; and how students can use public health or human rights data to acquire a better understanding of what is happening in the target society or community. Students are expected to develop competence in the following areas: self-orientation in a new environment, ethical comportment appropriate for researchers working with human subjects, and methodological approaches to anthropology fieldwork.
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 North India or in another approved location. Sample topic areas: international, national, and regional responses to epidemics and pandemics; health equity and disability; major public health challenges of diseases such as TB, malaria, and polio; access to reproductive and children's health; incentive strategies and health outcomes production; health financing; impact of globalization on public health; health planning and management; privatization of medical education.
- Internship and Seminar – syllabus
- (ITRN3000 / 4 credits / 120 hours)
- This seminar consists of a four-week internship with a primary healthcare center, local public health organization, think tank with a focus on public health, research organization, m-Health business organization, or international NGO with a public health focus. The aim of the internship is to enable the student to gain valuable public health work experience and to enhance their intercultural skills in a developing world context and an international work environment.
Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.
Field excursions are an integral part of this program. You will visit rural and tribal communities, NGO headquarters, academic and research institutes, and hospitals in urban and rural sites across northern India and hear lectures onsite.
Most excursions are to underprivileged areas and aim to provide a better understanding of how caste- and gender-based oppression affects the lives of the poor in otherwise thriving India. These excursions allow you to interact with community leaders and victims of health inequalities. You will learn about the struggle to survive and challenges of acquiring adequate healthcare.
As part of the excursions, you will participate in health awareness and healthcare work implemented by partner NGOs.
The visit to Bahraich orients you to healthcare delivery in India. You will visit all levels of public healthcare institutions—primary-level community health centers, secondary-level district government hospitals and women’s hospitals, and a sub-center in a nearby hamlet—and observe their delivery of healthcare. You will meet doctors, paramedic staff, patients, village health workers, women, children, and community leaders in forest villages on the Nepal border.
After the adoption of the National Rural Health Mission in India, the role of NGOs expanded dramatically. NGOs now also work as research and policy advocacy organizations in the public health sector. The main objective of this excursion is to introduce you to the role of NGOs in connecting people with health services. The excursion focuses on health issues of marginalized groups in India. You will learn about remote tribal populations and their healthcare needs and concerns.
The excursion to Udaipur incorporates visits to the following NGOs:
- Seva Mandir
Staff will brief you about the organization’s values, challenges, and areas of work, including promoting pre- and postnatal care in remote locations. You will then visit remote tribal areas of the district, where Seva Mandir has trained traditional birth attendants and accredited social health activists.
- Jagran Jan Vikas Samiti (JJVS)
JJVS works in integrated rural development, promotion of traditional health systems, and involvement and advocacy. Here, you’ll meet traditional healers, visit herbal gardens, and learn traditional perspectives on life, development, and health.
- Diyya Mother Milk Bank and Malnutrition Treatment Corner
You will visit the mothers’ milk bank and malnutrition treatment corner at RNT Medical College Hospital in Udaipur. Here, you’ll learn about severe malnutrition among tribal populations and the rehabilitation program of Rajasthan state and the national government.
In Varanasi, you’ll visit the KIRAN Centre, a center providing education, skills, vocational training, and physical rehabilitation for children and youth with conditions such as polio, cerebral palsy, rickets, and hearing impairments. The organization was founded in 1990 by people of different social, cultural, and religious backgrounds. Kiran literally means “ray of light.”
In Jamkhed, you’ll visit the Comprehensive Rural Health Project (CRHP), one of the most effective community health projects in India. CRHP has worked among the rural poor and marginalized in Jamkhed for more than 37 years. By partnering with village communities and expanding on local knowledge and resources, the project aims to meet the immediate and long-term needs of underprivileged groups, especially women, and to empower people, families, and communities, regardless of caste, race, or religion.
My experiences with SIT taught me the importance of meaningful cultural exchange and direct immersion.
My experiences with SIT taught me the importance of meaningful cultural exchange and direct immersion. By engaging in the complexities and rewards of everyday life in local communities, I evolved a truer and deeper appreciation of India. This reflection left me with an insatiable desire to continue broadening my global perspective, which I am hugely obliged to be able to do through a Fulbright fellowship. In truth, my journey as an English teaching assistant in Malaysia is an attempt to honor and grow what I learned through SIT about the transformative power of cross-cultural understanding.
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.
By living with Indian host families, you will have an excellent opportunity to practice language skills and share daily life, including many memorable meals. You may also experience special cultural activities, including religious ceremonies and weddings.
You will live with a carefully selected homestay family in New Delhi for approximately nine weeks. Families are typically middle class and of various sizes and religious backgrounds. A majority of families have multiple generations living under one roof and are in neighborhoods where transportation, shopping, and Internet resources are easily accessible. Most families are about 20 minutes’ commute from the program center, which is walking distance from the metro station.
Families are trained to understand SIT policies and procedures regarding health and safety. The program policy is to place two students of the same gender in one home. Two students living in one home and traveling to and from program activities together helps enhance the safety of students. In the event of an emergency, families are equipped to respond. Over the course of the semester, the homestay coordinator and academic director will check in regularly with you and your homestay family.
If you opt for a rural workshop, you may live for a week in a Himalayan community in a remote village of the Nainital district in Uttarakhand state.
Other accommodations include NGO guest houses, hostels, educational institutions, or small hotels.
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. Recent positions held by alumni of this program include:
- Co-founder of Broad Street Maps, Seattle, WA
- Fulbright Nehru fellow conducting research on the rehabilitation of drug-addicted youth in India
- Boren fellow studying Hindi and conducting independent research on sanitation, infection, and nutrition, India
- Medical and public health master’s degree students at Yale University and Johns Hopkins University
Independent Study Project
Independent Study Project
During the final month of the semester, you will work on an Independent Study Project (ISP) to critically examine a topic, situation, or community relevant to the topic of health and human rights in India. The ISP is conducted in North India or in another approved location appropriate to the project.
You will be matched with an ISP advisor who will work with you on the design, implementation, and evaluation of the research project. ISP advisors include professors of public health; environment, health, and human rights activists; health policy planners and advocates; and healthcare professionals.
Sample ISP topic areas:
- International, national, and regional responses to epidemics and pandemics
- Health equity and disability
- Major public health challenges of diseases such as TB, malaria, and polio
- Access to reproductive and children’s healthcare
- Incentive strategies and health outcomes production
- Health financing
- Impact of globalization on public health
- Health planning and management
- Privatization of medical education
SIT internships are hands-on and reflective. In addition to completing the internship, you will submit a paper processing your learning experience on the job and analyzing an issue important to the organization you worked with, and/or you will design a socially responsible solution to a problem identified by the organization.
Interning in India
The program gives you the extraordinary hands-on learning opportunity of doing an internship with a hospital or public health organization working on research, policy, programs, and action. The internship will help you hone skills that will help you develop a career in public health and related fields. An internship experience in the second most populous country in the world will provide an inside look at health practices in a developing country and help you understand Indian perspectives on healthcare. This unique experience will enhance career prospects in the field of public health.
- Learning about Jamkhed’s community health model at Comprehensive Rural Health Project
- Taking stock of LGBTQ rights and women’s access to healthcare in India at Naz Foundation
- Learning about traditional healthcare practices and holistic and traditional philosophy in Ayurveda and yoga at Kayakalp
- Gaining an understanding of complex, interdisciplinary approaches to sustainable development and public health at Seva Mandir
- Learning about issues, challenges, and ways forward with regard to public health in a Himalayan rural community at Aarohi
- Learning about issues related to disability and the medical and social rehabilitative model of the KIRAN Centre with KIRAN Society
- Learning about the rehabilitative model of the organization and developing knowledge and skills in assistive technologies, such as calipers and artificial limbs, using BMVSS facilities at BMVSS Jaipur Foot
- Gaining an understanding of issues related to marginalization and access to healthcare for women, children, and tribal communities at DEHAT
- Learning about public health issues, access to healthcare, and health-seeking behavior in rural areas at the community health center in Risia, Bahraich
- Learning about a wide range of healthcare issues, including maternal and child healthcare, at Bahraich’s district hospital
- Working in the malnutrition treatment corner of the RN Medical College Hospital in Udaipur
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
- Field Methods and Ethics course on research methods and Human Subjects Review
- Intensive language instruction in Hindi
- All educational excursions, including all related travel costs
- Independent Study Project or internship (including a stipend for accommodation and food)
- Health insurance throughout the entire program period
Room & Board: $4,220
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 (New Delhi), on all excursions, during the Independent Study Project or internship, and during the final evaluation period. Accommodation is covered by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend provided to each student, or through the homestay.
- All homestays (nine weeks in New Delhi and one week in a remote Himalayan village)
- All meals for the entire program period. Meals are covered 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: $211
Books & Supplies: $100
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.