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

Switzerland 2011 Letter Home

Though the blizzard conditions in Boston did not allow everyone to arrive at orientation on time, the IHP Health and Community group has quickly come together as a cohesive, travelling classroom.  The groups’ initial perseverance definitely helped set the tone for the program ahead of us!

In Geneva, we had a few very full days navigating through several U.N. agencies and other international health organizations, which included the opportunity to observe the opening session of the World Health Organization’s executive board and interact with many of the organization’s executive representatives.  Some of us took the initiative to approach WHO Director General Margaret Chan, amongst the floor of WHO delegates from around the world.  The next two days were filled with more visits including the International Committee of the Red Cross and UNAIDs, where the group actively engaged in discussion with their presenters.   The short, but exciting Geneva program wrapped up with a lunch and discussion session at the United Nations with India’s Secretary of Health and Family Welfare Dr. K. Chandramouli that left the group with many new questions to explore during our visit to Chennai.  

We then left French-speaking Geneva for German-speaking Basel, where our site visits spanned very diverse organizations.   We were able to visit a telemedicine clinic, where we learned about the unique implications of healthcare when conducted over the phone, and were exposed to the spiritual philosophy of anthroposophy, with its alternative views on medicine and health established by Rudolf Steiner.  We visited the Ita Wegman hospital to directly observe this approach to health in the place where it was founded. A highlight of the Basel program was splitting into smaller groups and asking Swiss, German and French people, directly, about their ideas of health and community, in the context of their country with the help of other international students who served as our translators.

We were lucky to have the chance to explore Basel both inside and outside of the classroom context.  Fortunately, we were in town for Basel’s annual Museum Night, where all of its museums are free and open until 2am.  Despite a very packed schedule and the constant temptation of cheese and chocolate that is everywhere in Switzerland, the group has been making the time to take care of their own health and stay active.  Some students have enjoyed daily runs within Basel, as well as to neighboring countries!  Other students have hiked the famous, snowy Swiss peaks, in nearby Lucerne.

In Switzerland, we have learned about the complex interaction of international organizations and had a diversity of exposure to different systems of medicine and ways of thinking about health.  The complexity of issues around health and community is sure to intensify as the group enters the developing world in Chennai, India.

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Credits: 16

Duration: Spring, 16 weeks

Program Sites:
United States, India, South Africa, Brazil

Prerequisites: None. Coursework in public health, anthropology, biology, or related field recommended.

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