Public Health, Community, and Healthcare Systems in India

IndiaAs one of the fastest growing and most populated countries in the world, India has the potential to have an enormous global impact. However, the country’s future is entirely dependent upon the health of its population, specifically its most vulnerable members: women and children. Indian health indicators show that women fall prey to additional illnesses due to a variety of factors, especially lack of information regarding health and limited access to health services. From sex-selective abortions to malnourishment and maternal mortality, female health indices clearly reflect a sociocultural gender bias. Discriminatory social practices perpetuate inequitable health outcomes and impair women’s abilities to lead healthy lives.

This course will explore the theoretical links between access to and reliance on Indian healthcare services and the conceptions of human rights of individuals and communities in an Indian social, economic, and political context. In order to understand how public health policy can be formed and changed, participants will critically investigate how this interacts with social systems. Participants will investigate the ways in which India’s rigid social hierarchy leads vast numbers of severely impoverished, malnourished, and marginalized groups and communities to be denied access to appropriate healthcare. The sociocultural context of the delivery of healthcare is examined in order to magnify the complex intersection between age, gender, caste, and rural/urban in creating vulnerable individuals and communities. Field visits will provide context for understanding the nuances of public health and healthcare systems.

The seminar and visits will also examine the role of ancient traditional medicine and healthcare practices in India and among contemporary Tibetan community in Dharamsala.

The seminar draws upon the resources and networks developed through SIT’s semester-long undergraduate program India: Public Health, Policy Advocacy, and Community, which has run since 2010. All SIT programs are designed around principles of field-based, experiential education, with a strong focus on social justice and intercultural communication. In India and on all programs, SIT places the highest priority on the health, safety, and security of all program participants. 


The following topics will be explored on the faculty seminar in India:

  • Public health issues
  • Indian health systems
  • Traditional healthcare practices
  • Tibetan medicine

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this seminar, participants will be able to understand:

  • Contemporary socio-economic and political issues in India
  • Public health issues in India
  • Determinants of health (gender, caste, religion, poverty, and disability)
  • The Indian healthcare system
  • Tibetan medicine and healthcare practices

On this seminar, participants will explore the links between public health, traditional healthcare systems, and communities in India, with a focus on determinants of health. This seminar will also examine the relationship between public health and community in a field-study context using lectures, visits to organizations, institutions, and communities.

IndiaLectures May Include:

  • Introduction to India: People, Polity, and Economy
  • Public Health Systems: Issues and Challenges
  • Determinants of Health: With Reference to Gender, Caste and Poverty
  • Community Health Workers and National Health Mission
  • Indian System of Medicine: Ayurveda and Yoga
  • Concept of Life, Health, and Nirvana in Tibetan Buddhism

Other lectures included in site visits described below

Site Visits and Field-Based Lectures May Include:

  • Akshardham Mandir-Hindu Temple
  • Inayat Khan Dargah-Muslim Sufi Shrine
  • Lotus Temple-Bahai Temple
  • National Institute of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India
  • Naaz Foundation-LGBTQ Rights
  • National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights
  • Kayakalp-Ayurveda and Yoga center
  • Men-Tse-Khang Medical and Astrological College Clinic
  • The Dalai Lama Temple and Tibet Museum

Azim Khan, PhD, Academic Director

Azim KhanDr. Khan 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.

Dr. Khan 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. He 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 has co-founded several schools and organizations in North India. Dr. Khan has also been a media and political analyst for the US government.

Participants in the India seminar should plan to arrive in Delhi on May 22, 2018, and depart from Delhi on May 30, 2018.

The program fee for the India seminar includes:

  • Accommodations in single rooms in tourist-class hotels in Delhi for four nights, Dharamsala (Palampur and McLeod Ganj) for three nights, and Agra for one night
  • All breakfasts, plus approximately half of all remaining meals, including a welcome dinner and farewell banquet
  • Airport transfers on the program start and end dates and all transportation to included program activities
  • All program activities as outlined above
  • Health insurance for the duration of the program
  • Pre-departure preparation materials, including informational materials, syllabus, and pre-program assignments

Program fees do not include:

  • International airfare to/from Delhi
  • Passport or visa fees, if required (tourist visa required for US citizens)
  • Immunizations, if needed
  • Approximately one meal (lunch or dinner) per day