Traditional Medicine and Healthcare Systems

Examine how history, geography, biodiversity, and demographics shape traditional and allopathic healthcare, and explore plant-based and traditional medicine.

At a Glance





Language of Study


Courses taught in



Jun 15 – Jul 29

Program Countries


Program Base


Critical Global Issue of Study

Global Health & Well-being

Global Health & Well-being Icon

Development & Inequality

Development & Inequality Icon


Why study traditional medicine in Madagascar?

In Madagascar, one of the world’s globally recognized “megadiverse” countries, traditional medicine is practiced as an available, accessible, affordable, and effective method of healthcare. With flora and fauna not found anywhere else in the world, the nation’s unrivaled biodiversity plays a distinctive role in its traditional healthcare practices. From your base in the lushly exotic capital city of Antananarivo, you’ll explore traditional and allopathic healthcare, travel to rural areas to learn about ethnobotany, home and folk remedies, and healthcare access, and meet with leading academics, allopathic doctors, and Malagasy students. The Malagasy people are extremely heterogeneous due to their diverse roots in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. Along the way, gain a deeper understanding of how religious and cultural beliefs affect communities’ approach to healthcare, and journey through world-renowned rainforests and mineral forests in search of rare plants and wildlife.


  • Discover a world apart where most flora and fauna exist only on the island.
  • Understand the cultural, political, and socioeconomic contexts of healthcare.
  • Live with local homestay families, enhance your French, and learn Malagasy.
  • Trek through rainforests and a UNESCO World Heritage site mineral forest.


None, although students with a background in French will have many opportunities to use their French language skills.


Western Coast

See the vast mineral forest of Tsingy de Bemaraha, a UNESCO World Heritage site, near Bekopaka, in search of the sacred Hasina plant. Tsingy is the Malagasy word for “walking on tiptoes,” which refers to the forest’s astounding labyrinth of limestone needles.


Experience a sublime sunset walk along the Avenue of Baobabs—one of the most spectacular places in the world—lined by massive, centuries-old, baobab trees. This magnificent winding road will take you to the tropical, laid-back seaside town of Morondava.


In the center-east of Madagascar, you will get the chance to hike through the stunning rainforests of Andasibe National Park to learn about medicinal plants and observe lemurs, including the indri, the largest lemur in the world.


Drive through the center-west to see Lake Tritriva, the emerald-green sacred lake shaped like Madagascar and Africa, occupying the summit of Mount Tritriva. The lake is near the town of Belazao, known for its history and myth of Rabeniomby and Ravolahanta, the Malagasy version of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Experience the benefits of bathing in the thermal healing springs at Betafo and learn about the healing properties of some gemstones with a visit to Madagascar’s largest gemstones market in Antsirabe.

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 Social and Political Dimensions of Health and the Healthcare Practice in Madagascar seminars are conducted in English and provide an introduction to the cultural, political, and socioeconomic contexts of healthcare as well as healthcare practices in Madagascar. Students will visit rural and urban allopathic healthcare centers, herbalist markets, schools of medicine, and medical research institutions as well as other historically, culturally, and thematically relevant sites.

Coursework in Malagasy language provides students with the foundational and essential tools required for daily use. Students with a background in French will have many opportunities to apply their language skills in Antananarivo.

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

  • Madagascar’s healthcare models and dimensions of healthcare delivery
  • Global healthcare and economic, social, and environmental factors
  • Health beliefs and cultural and religious practices of communities
  • Postcolonial history and politics in healthcare policy and access
  • Ethnobotany, and home and folk remedies

Social and Political Dimensions of Health

Social and Political Dimensions of Health – syllabus
(IPBH3000 / 3 credits)

This course provides an introduction to the cultural, political, and socioeconomic contexts of healthcare in Madagascar, allowing students to understand Malagasy cultural assumptions and practices as they relate to healthcare. The course will also explore the role of post-colonial and contemporary Malagasy politics as applied to healthcare policy and delivery, and introduce students to major economic activities in the formal and informal sectors as they relate to healthcare and access to health systems.


Malagasy – syllabus
(MALA1003 / 3 credits)

Emphasis on beginning speaking and comprehension skills through classroom and field-based instruction. In addition to a focus on oral proficiency, the course integrates the program theme of traditional medicine and healthcare systems with Malagasy language learning. Formal instruction is augmented by language practice with host families during homestays.

Healthcare Practice in Madagascar

Healthcare Practice in Madagascar – syllabus
(IPBH3500 / 3 credits)

This course is an examination of healthcare practices in urban and rural settings to understand traditional and allopathic healthcare approaches. Students will explore ethical issues in healthcare delivery and the roles of healthcare delivery professionals and informal healthcare practice in overall healthcare issues in the different systems.


Antananarivo (Tana)

Live with a homestay family in the capital city Antananarivo, commonly referred to as Tana, a beautiful city built on hills, with open-air markets, and distinct neighborhoods reflecting a mix of 19th century Malagasy and more recent European influences. Become immersed in a wide variety of social and cultural perspectives linked to globalization and other international forces impacting Malagasy life. Learn the importance of family in the Malagasy culture, including ancestor veneration. Witness the deep connections urban Malagasy have to their ancestral villages.


Spend 10 days in the village of Andasibe surrounded by wildlife and rainforests. Witness the interconnectedness of Malagasy society in a rural setting. Observe how communities face issues of access to healthcare, education, and government services. Visit medical centers, and meet medical doctors, traditional healers and specialists. Your stay in Andasibe is spent with Malagasy peers of the University of Antananarivo Pharmacology Department.

Faculty & Staff

Madagascar: Traditional Medicine and Healthcare Systems

Nat Quansah, PhD
Academic Director
Fana Randimbivololona, PhD
Academic Assistant/Coordinator and Lecturer
Lucie Razafindramiadana
Rural Homestay Coordinator
Martine Razanadraibe
Urban Homestay Coordinator
Patricia Randrianavony, PhD
Program Assistant
José Narcisse Randria, MD

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 more than $1.5 million in scholarships and grants to SIT Study Abroad students.

    See Full Breakdown