Madagascar: Traditional Medicine and Healthcare Systems (Summer)

Key Features

“I came to really understand the importance of going abroad to studying global health… Getting to know healers and touring hospitals and NGOs was a wonderful way to connect with the realities of healthcare in Madagascar. I now understand not only academic points of view, but individual, traditional, and personal approaches to health, as well.”

—Emma Sheldon, Cornell University

Students meeting with the Minister of Health

Madagascar, the world's fourth-largest island, has a deep-seated heritage in plant-based medicine, and today traditional medicine remains widely practiced throughout the country.  Based in the capital city of Antananarivo, students will explore healthcare in both urban and rural areas to discover how geography as well as cultural, economic, and political dimensions provide the appropriate context for understanding varied Malagasy approaches to healthcare.

Through lectures, educational excursions, and deep cultural interaction, students examine topics including:

  • Malagasy cultural assumptions and practices
  • Ethical issues in healthcare delivery
  • Post-colonial and contemporary Malagasy politics as applied to healthcare policy and delivery

Antananarivo and Beyond
Commonly referred to as "Tana", Madagascar's capital is a sprawling, labyrinthine city of more than three million people, though at times can feel much smaller. The city boasts an interesting mix of nineteenth century Malagasy and more recent European influences, evident in the city's layout, architecture, economy, attitude, and atmosphere. Madagascar's capital is a beautiful city built on hills, with distinct neighborhoods, bustling open-air markets, intriguing paths, and endless staircases that wind their way among the hills.

The program also includes time in provincial areas, allowing students to view the varied facets of Malagasy society and culture through multiple lenses. In the rural town of Andasibe, a 150 km drive from Tana, students will engage with local residents including traditional healers and allopathic medical doctors at rural public hospitals. In Andasibe students will learn more about ethno-botany, home and folk remedies, and the extent to which health beliefs are grounded in traditional religion.

Malagasy Language lectures at Rova Ambohimanga

Heterogeneous Communities and Natural Environment
The present-day Malagasy people are extremely heterogeneous due to their diverse roots: their ancestors arrived on the island from various parts of Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Europe.  Today, the Malagasy have been categorized into 18 official ethnic groups, but many distinctions between various groups remain unclear or are still subject to debate.

Madagascar is also well known for its exceptional ecological diversity: the island is home to extraordinary flora and fauna much of which is unique to this country and plays a distinctive role in traditional healthcare. 

Use French and Learn Malagasy 
All students will receive intensive instruction in Malagasy, and students with a background in French will have many opportunities to apply their French language skills while in Tana. (Note: There is no language prerequisite for the program.)

Costs Dates

Credits: 9

Duration: 7 weeks

Program Base: Antananarivo

Language Study: Malagasy

Prerequisites: None, although students with a background in French will have many opportunities to use their French language skills. Read more...


View Student Evaluations for this program:

About the Evaluations (PDF)

Summer 2013 Evaluations (PDF)
Summer 2012 Evaluations (PDF)
Summer 2011 Evaluations (PDF)

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