Public Health, Gender, and Community Action

Understand the pioneering links between public health, gender, and community action in India and Thailand.

At a Glance





Language of Study


Courses taught in



Jan 24 – May 8

Program Countries


Program Excursion Countries


Program Base

New Delhi

Critical Global Issue of Study

Global Health & Well-being

Global Health & Well-being Icon

Development & Inequality

Development & Inequality Icon


Why study health in India?

India, the most populous democracy on Earth, is also home to a 5,000-year-old indigenous medicine system. From your base in New Delhi, the nation’s capital and hub for policymakers and global health organizations, explore both ancient and cutting-edge approaches to local and international public health. Travel to under-resourced communities to conduct extensive fieldwork; gain an understanding of inclusion and access to healthcare; examine policy advocacy for the right to health services; and participate in a special focus on reproductive and children’s health. In prepping for a weeklong workshop with a community health organization, study relevant public health programs in India and Thailand and learn how the dynamics of gender and community affect public-health access in a field-study context. With New Delhi hosting more than 300 international and 1,000 local non-governmental organizations actively involved in public health and development, this program offers an ideal opportunity to build contacts, network, and collaborate with a diverse range of public health agencies and experts.


  • Explore India’s ancient health practices with a focus on Ayurveda and yoga.
  • Travel to Tibetan and Himalayan communities to study rural healthcare access.
  • Examine why India sees Thailand’s healthcare system as a pathbreaking model.
  • Learn standard Khari Boli Hindi and live with a local Indian family.
  • Participate in a workshop with a public health organization to learn about awareness building and advocacy.
  • Examine the relationship between public health, gender, and community in a field-study context.





The visit to Bahraich orients you to healthcare delivery in India. Visit all levels of public healthcare institutions—primary-level community health centers, secondary-level district government hospitals and women’s hospitals, and a sub-center in a nearby hamlet—and observe their delivery of healthcare. Meet doctors, paramedic staff, patients, village health workers, women, children, and community leaders in forest villages on the Nepal border.


Gain a deeper understanding of the role of NGOs in community mobilization and participation and health advocacy with the government and World Health Organization. Learn about healthcare delivery in the context of the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) scheme under Thailand’s National Health Security Act of 2002, and why it has quickly become a model for universal healthcare in many countries. The excursion offers ample opportunity to compare Thailand’s and India’s healthcare systems and policy environments.

Workshop - Goa (Mental Health)

This workshop will be at Sangath, an organization that promotes collaboration between diverse academic and health disciplines to generate effective treatments. Learn how a mix of social, psychological, and medical interventions is needed to improve the health of the community. Observe how Sangath’s work is based on the best evidence available and is thoroughly evaluated and deployed. The workshop also provides an opportunity to understand Sangath’s collaborative framework involving a range of key partnerships.

Workshop - Palampur (Traditional Health Practices—Ayurveda and Yoga)

Surrounded by the beautiful Dhauladhar range of the Himalaya, participate in a workshop at Kayakalp, an organization that aims to provide complete healthcare by treating body, mind, and soul. Participate in introductory classes followed by a demonstration of the traditional Indian practices of Ayurveda, yoga, and meditation therapies. In addition, have the chance to travel to McLeod Ganj, where His Holiness the Dalai Lama and a Tibetan community live in exile.

Workshop - Jamkhed (Community Rural Health)

Study at the world-renowned Comprehensive Rural Health Project (CRHP) in Jamkhed, one of the most effective community health projects in India. CRHP has worked among the rural poor and marginalized for more than 540 years. By partnering with village communities and expanding on local knowledge and resources, the project aims to meet the immediate and long-term needs of under-resourced groups, especially women, and to empower people, families, and communities, regardless of caste, race, or religion.

Workshop - Udaipur-Seva Mandir (Reproductive and Tribal Health)

Students in this workshop will divide their time between the rural field area and Seva Mandir’s head office to gain firsthand knowledge about the organization. Receive staff briefings on the organization’s values, challenges, and areas of work, including promoting pre- and postnatal care in remote locations. Travel to tribal areas of the district where Seva Mandir has trained traditional birth attendants and accredited social health activists.

Workshop - Udaipur-Jagran Vikas Samiti (Reproductive and Tribal Health)

Meet traditional healers, visit herbal gardens, and learn traditional perspectives on life, development, and health at this workshop with Jagran Jan Vikas Samiti (JJVS), which works in integrated rural development, promotion of traditional health systems, and advocacy.

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:

  • Analyse the role of various actors and institutions in delivering primary health care services in India and Thailand.
  • Evaluate India’s free healthcare vis-a-vis the Thai Universal Health Coverage model using the criteria of social determinants.
  • Examine public health policy and healthcare management in a mid-income country.
  • Demonstrate the connections between the public health agenda and notions of human rights as they intersect with processes of social, economic, and political change.
  • Synthesize hands-on learning with public health theories and practices and one’s own observations and research data gathered in the field in an Independent Study Project paper.
  • Enhance conversational and communicative proficiency in Hindi.

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

  • Learn about healthcare and medical tourism in India and Thailand.
  • Study the role of community health workers in the healthcare system.
  • Explore public health challenges: water, sanitation, and environment.
  • Investigate the management of diseases and mental health.
  • Witness regional and grassroots approaches to healthcare access.
  • Understand “health” and its relationship to human fulfillment.

Public Health: Key Determinants, Gender, and Equity

Public Health: Key Determinants, Gender, and Equity – syllabus
(IPBH3010 / 3 credits)

This course explores the theoretical link between access to and reliance on Indian public health services and the conceptions of gender justice and community efforts in realizing right to health of individuals and communities in an Indian social context. As 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 — and most vital — members: women and children. Indian health indicators show that women contract/experience additional illnesses due to a variety of factors, especially lack of information regarding health and limited access to health services. Discriminatory social practices, from sex selective abortions to malnourishment and maternal mortality, perpetuate inequitable health outcomes and impair women’s abilities to lead healthy lives. To understand how public health policy can be formed and changed to address such sociocultural biases, students learn about the context of India and how local, national, and global actors currently interact with social systems. In particular, students 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, ability, caste, and rural/urban context in creating vulnerable communities. Excursions to and workshops in urban and rural areas will provide context for understanding the nuances of public health and human rights. Conditions permitting, these unique areas may include Bahraich, Goa, Udaipur, Varanasi, Jamkhed, Dharamsala, and Bangkok and rural Thailand.

Health Rights Advocacy in South Asia

Health Rights Advocacy in South Asia – syllabus
(IPBH3020 / 3 credits)

This course gives students firsthand exposure to the challenges and triumphs intrinsic in NGO and public health work. During this course, students explore Indians’ and Thais’ access to and reliance on public and private healthcare services. Through lectures, excursions to Bangkok and Bahraich, and active hands-on participation in a one-week workshop with an NGO in India, students observe healthcare systems themselves and interact with local experts and communities to understand realities of the delivery and uptake of health services in India and Thailand. This course substantiates academic study by placing students in a variety of venues and regional locales to observe and experience the delivery of health services firsthand. Students participate in a Public Health Capacity Building Workshop, which places students with an organization or individual who is working for positive change in the field of public health in India.


Beginning Hindi – syllabus
(HIND1003-1503 / 3 credits)

Intermediate Hindi – syllabus
(HIND2003-2503 / 3 credits)

Advanced Hindi – syllabus
(HIND3003-3503 / 3 credits)

Emphasis is on speaking and comprehension skills through classroom and field instruction. Students acquire a solid foundation in standard Khari Boli Hindi to enable interaction with speakers of Hindi in North India and all over the world. It is expected that students will take the opportunity to make rapid progress in both speaking and listening comprehension by using Hindi outside of class as much as possible, particularly with homestay family members. Although we expect that dedicated students will acquire a strong, functional ability to communicate in Hindi, students wishing to interact substantively with Hindi speakers should nevertheless expect extensive collaboration with a translator for their Independent Study Project (ISP). Based on in-country evaluation, including oral proficiency testing, students are placed in beginning, intermediate, or advanced classes.

Field Methods and Ethics in Social Science and Health

Field Methods and Ethics in Social Science and Health – syllabus
(ANTH3500 / 3 credits)

The concepts and skills introduced in Field Methods and Ethics unite and reinforce all other program components and are put to the test through the execution and successful completion of an Independent Study Project or internship. Material includes cross-cultural adaptation and skills building; project selection and refinement; appropriate methodologies; field study ethics and the World Learning / SIT Human Subjects Review Policy; developing contacts and finding resources; developing skills in observation and interviewing; gathering, organizing, and communicating data; and maintaining a work journal. The Field Methods and Ethics course examines public health indicators and helps students understand why some indicators are selected or important. The course includes helping students understand how and why studies are conducted in health and human rights; considerations for conducting such studies, including human subjects and ethical issues central to the World Learning / SIT Human Subjects Review Policy; and how students can use public health data to acquire a better understanding of what is happening in the target society or community. Students are expected to develop competence in the following areas: self-orientation in a new environment, ethical comportment appropriate for researchers working with human subjects, and methodological approaches to conducting fieldwork or an academic internship.

Independent Study Project

Independent Study Project – syllabus
(ISPR3000 / 4 credits)

Conducted in North India or in another approved location. Sample topic areas: holistic healthcare in Ayurveda and yoga, international, national, and regional responses to epidemics and pandemics; health equity and disability; major public health challenges of diseases such as TB, malaria, and polio; access to reproductive and children’s health; incentive strategies and health outcomes production; health financing; impact of globalization on public health; health planning and management; privatization of medical services and health tourism. The Independent Study Project culminates in a research paper and presentation.

Sample ISP topic areas:

  • Traditional healing practices including Ayurveda and yoga
  • Traditional medicine approaches to mental healthcare and psychological wellbeing in India
  • Maternal and child health issues and practices
  • International, national, and regional responses to epidemics and pandemics
  • Health equity and disability
  • Major public health challenges of diseases such as TB, malaria, and polio
  • Access to reproductive and children’s healthcare
  • Incentive strategies and health outcomes production
  • Malnutrition and availability of food
  • Impact of globalization, sustainable development goals, and public health in India
  • Health planning and management
  • Privatization of medical services and health tourism

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


New Delhi

Live with a homestay family in New Delhi for approximately seven weeks. Families are typically middle class and of various sizes and religious backgrounds. Most families have multiple generations living under one roof and are in neighborhoods where transportation, shopping, and internet resources are easily accessible. Most are within a 20-minute metro commute from the program center.

Typically, two students of the same gender are placed in one home, allowing them to safely travel to and from program activities together. In addition, homestay families are well-equipped to safeguard student’s safety. SIT also checks on students regularly during their homestays.

Other Accommodations

Other accommodations include NGO guesthouses, hostels, educational institutions, or small hotels.

Career Paths

A diversity of students representing different colleges, universities, and majors study abroad on this program. Many of them have gone on to do amazing things that connect back to their experience abroad with SIT. Recent positions held by alumni of this program include:

  • Epidemiologist, Centers for Disease Control, Atlanta

  • Technical Officer, World Health Organization

  • Co-founder, Broad Street Maps, Seattle, Washington

  • Fulbright Nehru Fellow researching the rehabilitation of drug-addicted youth in India

  • Boren Fellow studying Hindi and conducting independent research on sanitation, infection, and nutrition, India

  • Medical and public health master’s degree students at Yale University and Johns Hopkins University

Faculty & Staff

India: Public Health, Gender, and Community Action

Abid Siraj, PhD Candidate
Academic Director
Azim Khan, PhD
Senior Advisor and Faculty
Archna Merh, MA
Senior Faculty and Student Affairs Coordinator
Bhavna Singh
Senior Faculty and Homestay Coordinator
Goutam Merh, MA
Senior Faculty and Excursion 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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