This program is currently enrolling for spring 2021.
Please see our list of available and modified programs for fall 2020.

IHP Health and Community

Globalization, Culture & Care (Fall 1)

Learn how communities in the U.S. and South Africa understand and strive for health and well-being.

At a Glance




Relevant previous coursework recommended

Courses taught in


Program Countries

United States, South Africa

Program Base

United States (Montana and Washington, DC) and South Africa (Cape Town)

Program Tracks

Fall 1 (2020)

Sep 14 ‎– Dec 22

South Africa, United States

Launch City

Helena, MT

Critical Global Issue of Study

Global Health & Well-being

Global Health & Well-being Icon

Development & Inequality

Development & Inequality Icon


Why Study Global Health and Community?

Health practices differ widely around the globe, but health inequities—between economic divides, urban and rural—are increasing exponentially everywhere. Across three distinct locales and seven different communities, compare health strategies, community well-being, and multiple factors affecting human health in sweepingly different contexts, on both local and global scales. Through site visits and research practice with an array of health practitioners, government officials, and activists, explore health realities at individual and population levels. As part of the program, witness how considering health as a human right impacts peoples’ access to care.

Journey from urban centers to rural spaces to explore the human condition. Travel from the U.S. frontier to the U.S. Capitol then across the globe to South Africa to take a holistic, interdisciplinary look at how communities around the world define what it is to achieve and maintain health. Finally, explore the challenges all citizens face amid mounting obstacles to healthcare access, while strengthening your ability to understand, interpret, and compare the socio-cultural, ecological, economic, political, and biological factors that shape and predict human health.


  • Explore how public, private sectors, and civil society intersect at the frontlines of healthcare in the U.S. and South Africa.
  • Compare realities of public health work on the ground in urban and rural settings.
  • Conduct in-depth research practice across three radically different contexts—the U.S. frontier, the U.S. Capitol, and South Africa.
  • Experience rare opportunities to examine critical local and national public health initiatives.


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

Program Sites

United States: Helena, Montana

(4 weeks)

Montana hosts breathtaking landscapes and natural resources, while also bearing the burden of a lack of access to healthcare, radical inequities, extreme distances to basic services, legacies of Westward expansion, and state-wide housing and mental health crises. Based in Helena, compare three distinct forms of health systems: the standard private U.S. system, the Indian Health Service (IHS) system, and the U.S. Military (MHS) system. On excursions to nearby Native American Reservations, learn from local experts about IHS resources, needs, and histories of structural inequality.

United States: Washington, DC

(4 weeks)

The U.S. seat of government and a hub of international policymaking, Washington, DC,  also faces some of the country’s greatest wealth and health disparities. Rapid gentrification is displacing networks of care, HIV and infant mortality rates are among the nation’s highest, environmental health crises line the Potomac River, and the legacies of structural racial health inequities run deep. Explore how public, private, and civil society intersect in healthcare; local health strategies and community well-being in different social contexts; and the relationship between policy and practice.

South Africa: Cape Town

(7 weeks) 

South Africa faces the world’s greatest economic disparity and a unique, quadruple burden of disease. Although its constitution promises health as a human right, inequitable access remains a crucial health determinant. The country’s history of colonialism and apartheid brings into sharp focus the role of race in determining health. In Cape Town’s close-knit Bo Kaap community, the rural township of Zwelethemba, and the fishing village of Arniston, compare how changes in political structure affect health and community life—from grassroots activism to persistent health disparities.

Please note that SIT will make every effort to maintain its programs as described. To respond to emergent situations, however, SIT may have to change or cancel programs.



Access virtual library guide.

The following syllabi are representative of this program. 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.

Please expand the sections below to see detailed course information, including course codes, credits, overviews, and syllabi.

Key Topics

  • The impact of culture, background and history on our view of health
  • Is health a fundamental human right and, if so, who guarantees it?
  • Possible solutions to a range of health inequities around the world
  • How the forces of globalization impact health and access to services
  • Grassroots activism and top-down approaches to healthcare access
  • Roles of community in health and well-being across cultural contexts

Health, Culture, and Community

Health, Culture, and Community – syllabus
(ANTH3050 / 4 credits)

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.

Globalization and Health

Globalization and Health – syllabus
(IPBH3500 / 4 credits)

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. The course is taught by four different in-country faculty throughout the semester.

Public Health: From Biology to Policy

Public Health: From Biology to Policy – syllabus
(IPBH3505 / 4 credits)

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. This course is taught by local faculty in each country.

Community Health Research Methods

Community Health Research Methods – syllabus
(IPBH3510 / 4 credits)

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.

Homestays / Housing


Students accommodations include a mix of hostels, guesthouses, small hotels/dorms, and homestays.

Career Paths

Positions recently held by alumni of this program include:

  • Co-founder and executive director of Spark MicroGrants, New York, NY, and multiple locations in Africa

  • Policy advisor in the Executive Office of the President, Office of Science and Technology Policy, Washington, DC

  • Managing director of Food Loft, Boston, MA

  • Intern at the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Global Health Diplomacy, Washington, DC

  • Primary care intern at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA

  • Founder of TurnOut, an LGBTQ volunteer-matching social enterprise, San Francisco, CA

  • Public Health Practitioners—federal to local

  • Public Health Policy—services to finance

  • Medical Practitioners of all forms: Doctors, Nurses, Physician’s Assistants, Midwives, etc.

  • Nonprofit Management

  • Government

  • Health IT Systems

  • Health Advocacy and Education

  • Health Systems and Hospital Management

  • Health researcher or policy developer

Faculty & Staff

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

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 and Faculty
Zufan Hagos, MA
Assistant Program Director and Faculty Support
Peter Seilheimer, MA
Program Manager
Ebony Yarbrough, MA
Launch Coordinator, Washington DC
Nicole Van Heerden
Country Coordinator, South Africa
Peter Seilheimer, MA
Program Manager

Discover the Possibilities


    SIT Study Abroad is committed to making international education accessible to all students. Scholarship awards generally range from $500 to $5,000 for semester programs and $500 to $3,000 for summer programs. This year, SIT will award more than $1.5 million in scholarships and grants to SIT Study Abroad students.

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