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

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

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

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

Key Questions:

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

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

San Francisco, USA

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

Hanoi, Vietnam

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

Bushbuckridge, South Africa

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

Buenos Aires, Argentina

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


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

Access virtual library guide.

The program takes a holistic, interdisciplinary view of academic topics, drawing not only on articles and faculty lectures, but also experiential education in the form of student observations and experiences in the field, with guest lectures and homestay families to facilitate learning. Assignments typically involve written essays, oral presentations, and more creative projects such as posters and photo stories.

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

The following syllabi are either from a recent session of this program or for an upcoming session. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term.

The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer. Read more about credit transfer.

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 2)

February 10, 2015
Letter Home: Launch Highlights from New Orleans, LA
“…this leg of our trip was clearly rooted in community efforts to improve a city that boasts a unique sense of unity.” Dear Friends and Family, What a whirlwind our stay in New Orleans has been! Despite coming from dozens of different universities across the United States, we can comfortably say that we all shared […]
April 21, 2014
Letter Home from Cape Town, South Africa
A Letter Home from students on the IHP Health and Community: Globalization, Culture, and Care Spring Track 2 program: After nearly 17 hours, including an 8 hour layover in the Singapore Changi airport, we arrived safely in South Africa! In the airport we were immediately welcomed by our country coordinator, Rosie Blake. Upon stepping outside, […]
April 1, 2014
Letter Home from Hanoi, Vietnam
A Letter Home from students on the IHP Health and Community: Globalization, Culture, and Care Spring 2014 Track 2 program: Dear Friends and Family Members of the IHP Spring 2014 Track 2, Greetings from the International Honors Program! We have just spent the last four weeks learning about public health issues in Hanoi, Vietnam. Based […]

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

SherriLynn Colby-Bottel, PhD, Program Director

Sherrilyn ColgySherriLynn Colby-Bottel received her doctorate in cultural anthropology from the University of Virginia in 2012. She also completed a BA in anthropology (1998) and an MA in music (2001), with distinction, at California State University, Fresno. From 2005 to 2012, Dr. Colby-Bottel conducted ethnographic research in New Orleans, Louisiana, on disaster recovery, nonprofits, urban traditions, and community-based social activities. Her extensive research drew together many of the issues highlighted by disaster and recovery: how racial inequities align with health disparities, the impact of globalization on everyday life, the ethical considerations of representation and rebuilding, how environment and social policy act as determinants of community health, and the vital role of community in one’s ability to achieve personal health and well-being. The National Science Foundation and the University of Virginia Faculty Senate Fellowship award for scholarly achievement and excellence in teaching supported her longitudinal research.
SherriLynn is passionate about teaching, learning, and collaborative intellectual projects. She has worked and volunteered for several nonprofit organizations in the last decade while also researching how nonprofit organizations retain and reward labor. Her current intellectual interests are focused on holistic community well-being, ethnography, and the ethical considerations of representation. SherriLynn has been with SIT since 2011; she has coordinated programs for both the Health and the Cities programs in addition to serving as director for the Health and Community program. She has worked in higher education for more than a dozen years as both teacher and administrator at California State University, Fresno; the University of New Orleans; and the University of Virginia.

Anna Gail Caunca, MA, Program Manager

Anna Gail 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.

Vu Cong Nguyen MD, MPH, Country Coordinator, Vietnam

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

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

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

Carolina Rovetta, MFA, Country Coordinator, Argentina

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

Diane Lindblad, Traveling Faculty (Faculty for Spring 2015)

Diane Lindblad is an anthropologist and linguist; she earned her PhD from the University of Washington. Dr. Lindblad has a strong and varied academic career. She began study abroad work with SIT in Ireland and in France in the early '90s. She later worked in Northern Ireland during some of the worst violence of the “Troubles” leading up to the Peace Accord. She worked in a cross border initiative through the Queen’s University Armagh Outreach Program. It was here that she developed her passion for social justice and equality issues while working with community activists, government agencies, and political representatives. Her scholarly interests include issues affecting rural vs. urban populations as well as experiential pedagogy and integrating community participation with education. Recently, Diane helped create the team-oriented program in intercultural communication (multicultural studies) at Seattle Central College.

In 2012, Diane cycled from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. Her observation of the struggle of villagers against the encroachment of increasing urbanization and the challenges of economic survival directly related to her experiences in Northern Ireland. She continues to use these narratives in the courses she develops and teaches for SIT. Questions central to her work now consider the following: How do people reconcile community to personal identity and well-being? What are the conflicts, presentations, and expression of health, illness, and well-being? How does communication about health reflect and reproduce broader ideologies and patterns of power and inequality in societies? 

Darius Callier, Trustees Fellow (Trustees Fellow for Spring 2015)

CallierDarius is a graduate student based in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he has been pursuing joint master's degrees in development management and policy at Georgetown University and the Universidad Nacional de San Martín. His research is concerned with Senegalese immigrants who have settled in Buenos Aires and the challenges faced around access to housing, education, and healthcare. After graduating from Lehigh University with a BA in political science and philosophy, Darius taught for two years at the elementary and high school levels in Pittsburgh and in Harlem. An alumnus of SIT Study Abroad's program in social movements and human rights in Buenos Aires, Darius has served as a group leader to three Experiment in International Living high school summer abroad programs to Argentina and Spain. He is looking forward working with another study abroad program, to share his passion for public health and experiential learning.

homestay in South Africa

You will live with a host family for between three and four weeks at each program site, with the exception of the first location. Homestays are the primary form of accommodation on the program; other accommodations can include guest houses, hostels, dormitories, and/or small hotels.

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

Family structures vary in every place, and SIT values the diversity of homestay families. For example, the host family may include a single mother of two small children or a large extended family with many people coming and going all the time. Please bear in mind that the idea of what constitutes a “home” (i.e., the physical nature of the house) may be different from what you expect. You will need to be prepared to adapt to a new life with a new diet, a new schedule, new people, and possibly new priorities and expectations.

Country coordinators in each location arrange homestay placements. In most cases, students are placed in homestays in pairs, with placements made to best accommodate health concerns, including allergies or dietary needs. You will not receive information about homestay families until you arrive in each country.

  • IHP/Comparative: Health and Community: Globalization, Culture, and Care (Spring 2) is available only in the Spring semester.
  • The Spring 2016 semester generally begins in early January and ends in early May.

The dates listed above are tentative. 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 1, 2015


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

Tuition: Not yet available.

The tuition fee covers the following program components:

  • Content and logistics for field programs in San Francisco, Hanoi, Johannesburg/Bushbuckridge, and Buenos Aires
  • Cost of all lecturers who provide instruction to students in:
    • Locally taught classes
      • Public Health
      • Globalization and Health
    • Classes taught by traveling faculty
      • Health, Culture, and Community
      • Community Health Research Methods
  • Guest lectures and panel discussions
  • Site visit hosts and facilitators
  • Transportation to classroom spaces and daily program activities
  • All educational excursions to rural stays, including all related travel costs
  • Traveler’s health insurance throughout the entire program period 
  • Instructional materials
  • Other direct program costs

Note: Vacation costs are not covered by program fees; students are responsible for this.

Airfare: Not yet available.

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

Room & Board: Not yet available.

The room and board fee covers the following program components:

  • All accommodations during the entire program period. This includes during orientation, time in all four countries, urban and rural stays, all excursions, and the final retreat. Accommodation is covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend provided to each student, or through the homestay. 
  • All homestays in Hanoi, Johannesburg/Bushbuckridge, and Buenos Aires
  • All meals for the entire program period. Meals are covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend, or through the homestay.  

Estimated Additional Costs:

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: Not yet available.

Immunizations: Varies

Books & Supplies: Not yet available.

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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