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IHP/Comparative: Health and Community: Globalization, Culture, and Care (Spring 1)

IHP/Comparative: Health and Community: Globalization, Culture, and Care (Spring 1)

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.

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 among the poorest neighborhoods in the United States. Hear from global health experts from the World Bank, influential think tanks, and 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 gender, housing, racism, sexual orientation, access to education, citizenship status, and income. By meeting with locals, you will examine how inequities in these factors led to some of our country’s worst health outcomes. Over the course of the 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 setting the stage 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 learn about BRICS countries in relation to health and globalization and delve into the four interdisciplinary courses that make up the Health and Community program, all while connecting with new friends and exploring the political heart of the nation.

Delhi, India

India(4 weeks)
India is a world power with a burgeoning economy and a population that will soon surpass that of China. Delhi, India’s capital city, provides the base for exploration of health in India. Here, you will examine the mental and physical health challenges faced by farmers, sexual minorities, and the urban poor. How do lack of access to clean water and food and infectious diseases like HIV and malaria compound these challenges? Examine how such a large and diverse nation addresses the double burden of its infectious disease epidemics and burgeoning chronic disease prevalence, as its population both grows and ages. What roles do public and private entities play in developing solutions?

Cape Town, South Africa

(5 weeks)
South AfricaSouth Africa, with its history of apartheid, brings into sharp focus the role of race in determining health. You will reflect on how social and health inequities are manifested in India and in your own country as compared to South Africa. Homestays in a small community in Cape Town and in a rural black township allow you to see and experience, firsthand, how recent change in political structure affects health and community life — in profoundly positive ways, as grassroots health activism is burgeoning, and in equally disturbing ways, as deep disparities in health persist. The urgency of the HIV/AIDS and TB epidemics is nowhere more visible. Hear from and interact with community activists, physicians, public health practitioners, and officials as they seek to understand how and why the HIV/AIDS epidemic has ravaged communities in South Africa. Farmland, pesticides, and health will be the environmental focus of the program, and you will be challenged to understand domestic and political violence in the context of the country’s social relations. Amidst the multiple public health “crises” that face South Africa, probe the promise of community activism as a transforming influence in the lives of all people.

São Paulo, Brazil

(5 weeks)
The world has its eyes on Brazil. A throbbing center of rich and varied cultural life in Latin America for decades, Brazil has emerged as a major economy and model of participatory democracy. After a period of military dictatorship, Brazil’s new constitution, sanctioned in 1988, established health as a fundamental social right and called for access to social and medical care services for all citizens without discrimination on the basis of skin color, income, social status, or gender. What is the reality today? Sâo Paulo, the largest city in the Americas and a cultural melting pot, is an ideal place to study the progress and problems of Brazil. You will witness model HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programs in action and consider how they differ from programs in South Africa, India, and the United States. Although successful in some ways, why does Brazil continue to see wide variations in child and maternal mortality and rates of infectious disease? What can pockets of success show us about the way forward in other regions of the country, in the United States, and throughout the world? Other themes will include migrant health on the sugar plantations that fuel Brazil's growing biodiesel industry; “social medicine” as it relates to violence reduction; and family planning, sexuality, and reproductive health.


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.

Globalization and Health – syllabus
(IBPH 3500 / 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.

Health, Culture, and Community – syllabus
(ANTH 3050 / 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.

Public Health: From Biology to Policy – syllabus
(IBPH 3505 / 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
(IBPH 3510 / 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 1)

April 29, 2015
IHP Health Spring 2015 – South Africa
South Africa “We are a land of paradoxes.” These words were spoken to us during one of our first guest lectures way back in India, but we find they can apply here in South Africa just as easily. This country is one of the most geographically diverse places one can imagine, from towering mountains to […]
March 9, 2015
Letter Home from India
Namaste friends and family, After close to twenty hours of travel, we arrived at the New Delhi Airport where we met Team India: Abid, Bhavna, Rajshree, and other staff members. From the beginning until the very end of our trip, Team India was extremely caring, candid, and protective of us all. During that first week, […]
February 7, 2015
Letter Home: Launch Highlights from Washington, DC
“…our bonding thus far has provided us with a crucial community foundation that will serve us well as we continue to discuss what can be difficult-to-navigate topics and face unexpected challenges or experiences while abroad.” Dear loved ones, We’ve just landed in New Delhi after a peaceful 24-hour journey. These two weeks in D.C. have […]

The faculty/staff team shown on this page is a sample of the individuals who may lead your specific program. Faculty and coordinators are subject to change to accommodate each program’s unique schedule and locations.

SherriLynn Colby-Bottel, PhD, Program Director

Sherrilynn Colby-Bottel

SherriLynn 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 CauncaAnna 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: social studies, incorporating social justice in the classroom. She is a vegetarian, photographer-in-the-making, and running enthusiast with a hearty laugh.

Latesha F. Smith, Launch Coordinator, Washington, DC, US

Latesha F. Smith, originally from Smithfield, NC, is a graduate of Williams College with a BA in history, concentrating in race and ethnicity. During her undergraduate career she was highly active at the multicultural center and in student residential life, specializing in on-campus event coordination, political-education outreach, and public relations. Latesha was a student with the Cities in the 21st Century program in the spring semester of 2005 and the IHP Trustees Fellow for the Cities program in the fall of 2008. Similar to her role as Fellow, Latesha was a program associate from 2006 to 2012 at Meridian International Center, where she welcomed hundreds of international visitors who were guests of the US Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). Ms. Smith is glad to be part of IHP again, and when asked “What is your most memorable IHP moment?” she responded, “Taking a group of students to the US Consulate in Cape Town, South Africa, to vote in the historic presidential election of 2008 is a warm memory for me because for many students it marked not only a unique concession, but also their first voting experience.” Latesha is eager to continue to make such warm memories for students in her role as the Washington, DC, coordinator.

Abid Siraj, Country Coordinator, India

Abid SirajAbid has been working with SIT Study Abroad as an academic coordinator for the India: Health and Human Rights program since January 2011. He holds a master's degree in social work, with a specialization in reproductive and child health. Abid has over 12 years of experience in the public health field in India. Previously, he worked for a USAID-funded project on the role of local self-government in the promotion of reproductive and child health. He also served as project coordinator of the USAID-funded Community-Based Distribution Project of Family Planning Methods. He was part of a pioneering team that implemented a flagship public health program for the government of India's National Rural Health Mission in Rajasthan. Abid was also involved with one of UNICEF's largest communication and social mobilization initiatives, the intensive immunization of pulse polio in Uttar Pradesh. He was a visiting faculty for SIT Study Abroad before joining SIT full-time in India.

Rose Blake, Country Coordinator, South Africa

Rose BlakeRose Blake is currently writing a PhD dissertation in social anthropology. The research for her PhD was conducted in the township of Zwelethemba and focuses on the tensions leading to intergenerational conflict between close female kin (grandmothers, mothers, and granddaughters) around care and domesticity. It focuses in particular on the impacts of HIV/AIDS, the social grant system, and widespread unemployment on these relationships. Rose holds a master’s degree in medical anthropology from the University of Edinburgh and in the past has conducted research into the experiences of children receiving in-patient chemotherapy at a large provincial children’s hospital in South Africa. She has been involved in coordinating the Cape Town portion of spring and fall Health and Community programs since 2010, and she served as program manager for the IHP Health and Community program in 2012–13.

Glenda de la Fuente, MA, Country Coordinator, Brazil

Glenda de la FuenteGlenda de la Fuente holds a bachelor’s degree in translation and a postgraduate degree from King’s College, University of London, in applied linguistics and English language teaching. She was a professor for and coordinator of the extracurricular English program at the University of Buenos Aires, where she was in charge of teacher training courses. Since 1987, she has been a member of the Humanist Movement, an international volunteer organization engaged in the promotion of equity and human rights worldwide; through this work, she has served as a lecturer and promoter of grassroots groups committed to the principles of nonviolence and nondiscrimination in Argentina, Paraguay, Spain, and Brazil. Born in Argentina, for the last nine years she has lived in São Paulo, where she currently works as a freelance conference interpreter and translator. She also promotes humanist education programs with community-based groups. She has been the country coordinator of the SIT Study Abroad/IHP Cities program since 2008, and since 2010 she has also coordinated the SIT Study Abroad/IHP Health and Community program in São Paulo.

Brian Johnson, PhD, Traveling Faculty (Faculty from 2014–2015)

Brian JohnsonBrian is a cultural medical anthropologist whose academic and professional specializations include critical perspectives on medicine and healing, global inequities and disparities, and the social determinants of disease, illness and health, and political and social movements. Dr. Johnson holds a PhD in sociomedical sciences and anthropology from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University; and master’s degrees in public health and Latin American studies, both from UCLA. He has lived and worked for over 20 years in Latin America, primarily Bolivia. While there, he worked in primary healthcare and collaborated with national governments, nongovernmental organizations, and indigenous organizations in a number of countries. In the US, he has worked with community clinics and programs promoting healthcare access for underserved populations in Los Angeles and New York City. He has also worked as a professor at Trinity College (Hartford, CT) where he taught courses that examined medical anthropology, the political economy of health, and introductory classes of sociocultural anthropology.

Lindsey Gillies, Trustees Fellow (Trustees Fellow Spring 2015)

gilliesLindsey is an alumna of SIT Study Abroad and is excited to be joining the Health and Communities team. Lindsey is a midwife and is passionate about the intersection of women’s reproductive health and international education. Lindsey graduated with honors from the University of Vermont with a BA in English and environmental studies and recently completed her academic and clinical training in midwifery at Maternidad La Luz, a busy freestanding birth center on the US-Mexico border in El Paso, Texas. Lindsey has years of experience in youth leadership development, community building, mental health services, international education, and climate justice. She has worked in and traveled to many countries around the world where she has led workshops and worked alongside community organizations. She is thrilled to be working with such a wonderful group of students this spring.

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 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.

Program Dates: Spring 2016

Program Start Date:  Jan 17, 2016

Program End Date:    May 8, 2016

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:   Oct 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: $17,700

The tuition fee covers the following program components:

  • Content and logistics for field programs in Washington, DC; Delhi; Cape Town; and São Paulo
  • Cost of all lecturers who provide instruction to students in:
    • Locally taught classes
      • Public Health
      • Globalization and Health
    • Classes taught by traveling faculty
      • Health, Culture, and Community
      • Community Health Research Methods
  • 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.

Airfare: $4,500

  • Group airfare during the program
  • Airfare includes a flight back to a city in the US at the conclusion of the program

Room & Board:$4,500

The room and board fee covers the following program components:

  • All accommodations during the entire program period. This includes during orientation, time in all four countries, urban and rural stays, all excursions, and the final retreat. Accommodation is covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend provided to each student, or through the homestay. 
  • All homestays in Delhi, Cape Town, São Paulo
  • 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:

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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