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Global Health and Human Rights

Understand some of Kenya’s most pressing contemporary and societal challenges, including rapid urbanization, access to healthcare, and human rights.

At a Glance





Language of Study


Courses taught in



Aug 26 – Dec 8

Program Countries


Program Excursion Countries

Tanzania, Rwanda

Program Base


Critical Global Issue of Study

Global Health & Well-being

Development & Inequality

Development & Inequality Icon


Why study global health in Kenya?

Cutting-edge public health initiatives are being implemented in Kisumu, a Kenyan port city on Lake Victoria and home to the largest U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention facility outside North America. The CDC’s relationship with the Kenya Medical Research Institute, which spans four decades, offers students unparalleled access to distinguished medical professionals, scholars, and scientists. Attend classes on a campus with high-speed internet and surrounded by gardens. Learn research protocol and how to gather and analyze data from experts developing improved delivery of treatments and vaccines for infectious diseases and translating findings into policy recommendations. You’ll also study Kiswahili, the lingua franca of East Africa, and gain a range of perspectives from two homestay families, one in urban Kisumu and one in the rural hills and lakes region of Siaya County. As part of the program, you will also travel to Kenya’s capital city of Nairobi, a center for relief, health, and human rights organizations, and to Rwanda, where you will survey its significantly lower rates of HIV and malaria.


  • Network with academics, activists, and global health and human rights groups.
  • Visit Nairobi, the cosmopolitan capital of Kenya.
  • Build your résumé and skills with an internship or Independent Study Project.
  • Trek parts of the magnificent Great Rift Valley, which links the Middle East to Africa.



program map



Travel by road to Rwanda for an opportunity to compare and contrast Kenya’s health systems to Rwandan systems in the context of health and human rights and epidemiology. In Kigali, Rwanda, appraise the post-genocide era and exceptional achievements in health care including universal health care, malaria, and HIV/AIDS. We also visit rural areas outside of Kigali.

Kwale County and Tanzania

Travel to Kwale County, Kenya to visit Kwale County Referral Hospital and other health facilities to learn about comparative health systems, epidemiology, and health and human rights. Then cross over into Tanga, Tanzania to visit the Tanga Medical Research Centre. The center is one of seven centers of the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR), which conducts high quality health research. The center strengthens the capacity of the institute to conduct clinical and biomedical research.

Seminar Excursions

These will focus on specific themes developed during your readings, lectures, and class discussions. Excursions may include: Nakuru, Kenya’s fourth-largest urban center and Rift Valley provincial capital; Naivasha, famed for its flamingo-filled lake and its role in Kenya’s cut-flower industry; and Konza Techno City, Kenya’s Silicon Savannah, an emerging master-planned site near Nairobi. Past students have visited the Nyumbani AIDS Hospice for HIV-positive orphans and the United Nations Environment Program.


You will spend a few days in Nairobi. Here, you will visit various United Nations bodies and other international organizations where you will explore global health issues and develop your Independent Study Project or internship proposal.

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.


Program Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the program, students will be able to:

  • Identify the principles, practices, and characteristics of diverse healthcare systems in the East African region.
  • Analyze the factors that shape the development and design of healthcare systems.
  • Interpret positionality, perspectives, and independence using cultural sensitivity, language skills, and local networks of trust built over the course of the semester.
  • Assess the strategies for human rights advocacy within Kenya’s public health program planning.
  • Explain the importance of epidemiology to scientific, ethical, economic, and political discussion of health issues.
  • Demonstrate conversational and communicative proficiency in Kiswahili.
  • Synthesize the learning acquired on the program in an Independent Study Project or internship experience paper.

Read more about Program Learning Outcomes.


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

  • Colonialism, the built environment, and urban/rural resource gaps
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  • Cultural practices, and the epidemiology of tropical diseases
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  • Universal healthcare, challenges, and health outcomes in Rwanda
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  • Property rights, settlement patterns, and public health
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  • Public health practice, and addressing malaria and HIV
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  • Gender relations, the status of women, and health outcomes

Comparative Healthcare Systems

Comparative Healthcare Systems – syllabus
(IPBH3500 / 3 credits)

This core seminar focuses on the principles and practice of health system analysis; the sources and utilization of information informing the development, organization, and operation of health services; and frameworks for assessing the performance of different health systems. It analyzes health challenges and their impacts on healthcare delivery and discusses the targets for health in a globalized world. We review health service organization and management, health policy development and planning, and characteristics of personal and community healthcare services. We examine the constitutional, legal, economic, social, and political environments within which health care systems operate and the various patterns that emerge.


Intensive Language Study: Beginning Kiswahili – syllabus
(SWAH1003-1503 / 3 credits)

Intensive Language Study: Intermediate Kiswahili – syllabus
(SWAH2003-2503 / 3 credits)

Intensive Language Study: Advanced Kiswahili – syllabus
(SWAH3003-3503 / 3 credits)

Emphasis on speaking and comprehension skills through classroom and field instruction. Based on an in-country evaluation that includes oral proficiency testing, students are placed in intensive classes at the appropriate level, with additional language practice taking place through homestays, lectures, and field visits. Daily classes during the first two weeks of the urban homestay are followed by continuing lessons in a variety of field settings, which provide an opportunity for additional Kiswahili language practice.

Research Methods and Ethics

Research Methods and Ethics – syllabus
(ANTH3500 / 3 credits)

This course in the concepts of learning across cultures and from field experience provides an introduction to an Independent Study Project or internship. Material includes cross-cultural adaptation and skills building; project selection and refinement; field study ethics and the World Learning/SIT Human Subjects Review Policy; developing contacts and finding resources; field study methods; developing skills in observation and interviewing; gathering, organizing, and communicating data; maintaining a field journal; and participatory evaluation and appraisal techniques.

Course Options I

Choose one of the following courses:

Health and Human Rights in Kenya
Health and Human Rights in Kenya – syllabus
(IPBH3000 / 3 credits)

This seminar explores theoretical links between access to and reliance on Kenyan healthcare services and the conceptions of human rights of individuals and communities in a Kenyan social context. The course is designed to provide firsthand academic knowledge of Kenyan healthcare challenges and healthcare systems, together with analyses of locally informed debates surrounding human rights. Course content, provided via lectures, discussions, readings, presentations, and educational excursions, details the mutually constitutive challenges of health and human rights in Kenya, while highlighting successful coalition-building efforts, civil society organizations, the private sector, and others pursuing community-based approaches to myriad contemporary issues. Throughout the course, students record and analyze aspects of the host culture and examine contemporary development theories and methodologies and current issues related to health and human rights in Kenya.


Epidemiology in Kenya
Epidemiology in Kenya – syllabus
(IPBH3550 / 3 credits)

This seminar examines trends and patterns in the burden of diseases in Kenya and introduces students to the principles, concepts, and methods of population-based epidemiology. It explores the specifics related to epidemiological research conducted in the country by Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) in conjunction with US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and health practitioners that inform the planning, implementation, and evaluation cycle in public health promotion. The course starts by delving into the importance of epidemiology in the context of Kenya, a developing country. Students will describe and apply epidemiological terms using hands-on data to make causal inferences and be able to communicate their findings to both lay and professional audiences.

Independent Study Project or Internship

In addition to taking the above courses, students will also need to enroll in one of the following two courses:

Independent Study Project
Independent Study Project – syllabus
(ISPR3000 / 4 credits)

Conducted in Nairobi, Kisumu, or another approved location appropriate to the project within Kenya. Sample topics areas: malaria prevention policy and practice; Nairobi’s informal settlements; housing as a human right; primary healthcare options in Kenya; rural women’s cooperatives; prenatal healthcare; land tenure in Kibera; family planning in rural Kenya; urban agriculture; HIV/AIDS peer education; girls’ education; nutrition and health programming in Kenya.

Sample ISP topic areas:

  • Gendered dynamics of health and human rights
  • Urbanization, environmental degradation, and public health
  • Neglected tropical diseases in western Kenya
  • Informal settlements and their health challenges
  • Healthcare as a human right in Kenya
  • Grassroots development programs
  • Nutrition and health programming in Kisumu
  • Access to ARVs in urban and rural areas
  • Health financing in Kenya
  • Housing and human rights
  • Primary healthcare options
  • Maternal and child health
  • Family planning
  • HIV/AIDS peer education
  • Use of technology in the prevention of gender violence in Nairobi
  • Prevalence of depression among TB and HIV/AIDS patients in Kisumu

Browse this program’s Independent Study Projects / undergraduate research.


Internship and Seminar
Internship and Seminar – syllabus
(ITRN3000 / 4 credits)

This course consists of a four-week internship with a national, international, or local public health delivery organization that is based in Kenya. The internship enables students to gain valuable work experience in the public health field and introduces students to planning, delivery, and management of public health in the tropics, using western Kenya as the case study.

Sample internships:

  • Assisting health-related projects with the Red Cross and USAID
  • Conducting policy research at African Population and Health Research Center
  • Assisting research on HIV, TB, and malaria at Kenya Medical Research Institute
  • Working on hygiene, sanitation, and environmental projects with Network for Water and Sanitation
  • Supporting Amref Health Africa’s projects in Kenya
  • Providing healthcare and emotional support at Kenya’s Association of People Living with HIV/AIDS

In addition, you will submit a paper in which you describe, assess, and analyze what you learned during your internship. The paper will outline the tasks you completed throughout the internship, professional relationships you developed, and challenges you encountered and how you overcame them.



On the relaxed and sloping shores of Lake Victoria, Kisumu is Kenya’s third largest city and your main homestay. Live with a local family for a combined total of five weeks. Kisumu is a major port and trading hub at the crossroads of East Africa and Central Africa, playing a key role in the country’s modern history. Its fisheries and agriculture are important contributors to the local, national, and regional economy. Most homestays will be within walking distance of SIT’s program office.

Rural Homestay, Semenya, Siaya County

During your rural village homestay, you will complete a research assignment exploring issues of health and human rights from a local perspective. Rural Kenya offers a slower pace and basic living conditions, yet many students ultimately find adjustment deeply rewarding and find they have formed surprisingly strong bonds with their host family during this brief period.

Other Accommodations

Other accommodations may include hostels, guest houses, tented camps, small hotels, and private homes.

Career Paths

Recent positions held by alumni of this program include:

  • Founder and director of Hatua Likoni, a youth education and career development center, Mombasa, Kenya

  • Visiting assistant professor in the Department of Applied Anthropology at the University of South Florida, Tampa, FL

  • Special assistant at the Bureau for Legislative and Public Affairs, USAID, Washington, DC

  • Research intern researching global health organizations at Kenya Medical Research Institute, Nairobi, Kenya

Faculty & Staff

Kenya: Global Health and Human Rights

Steve Wandiga, PhD bio link
Steve Wandiga, PhD
Academic Director
Christine Odera bio link
Christine Odera
Office Manager
Leah Onyango, PhD bio link
Leah Onyango, PhD
Miltone Omondi bio link
Miltone Omondi
Program Coordinator

Discover the Possibilities

  • Cost & Scholarships

    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 nearly 1 million in scholarships and grants to SIT Study Abroad students.

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    Prepare for an accessible educational experience with SIT Study Abroad! In-country conditions and resources vary by site. Students with disabilities are encouraged to contact [email protected] for more information.

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