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Traditional Medicine & 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 11 – Jul 25

Program Countries


Program Base


Critical Global Issue of Study

Global Health & Well-being

Development & Inequality


Why study abroad 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.

program map


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.


Program Learning Outcomes

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

  • Explain the impact of colonization on traditional healers and traditional medicine practice in Madagascar.
  • Compare the similarities and differences between healthcare in traditional and allopathic paradigms as practiced in urban and rural settings.
  • Articulate the ethical issues in healthcare delivery with a focus on accessibility, affordability, and availability in urban and rural areas.
  • Evaluate the theoretical framework and worldview of the global challenges and opportunities in traditional and allopathic healthcare.
  • Analyze the roles of healthcare delivery professionals in the different health systems in the country.
  • Describe the modus operandi of an integrated health care systems approach to health delivery.
  • Demonstrate basic conversational skills in Malagasy.

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

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

Traditional Medicine and Healthcare Systems in Madagascar

Traditional Medicine and Healthcare Systems in Madagascar – syllabus
(IPBH 3504 / 4 credits)

This course introduces students to the cultural, political, and socioeconomic contexts of health care in Madagascar, allowing them to understand Malagasy cultural assumptions and practices as they relate to health care. It explores the role of post-colonial and contemporary Malagasy politics as applied to healthcare policy and delivery, and the challenges of healthcare delivery, vis-à-vis accessibility, affordability, and availability of services to citizens. Healthcare practices in urban and rural settings are examined to understand how the traditional and allopathic healthcare approaches operate. Classroom and field-based lectures and activities, excursions and site visits are interwoven and complement each other, allowing students to explore and get to grips with how historical circumstances, geography, and demographics shape and inform the provision and delivery of traditional and allopathic healthcare practices in Madagascar.


Malagasy – syllabus
(MALA 1002 / 2 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.


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 & Healthcare Systems

Nat Quansah, PhD bio link
Nat Quansah, PhD
Academic Director
Fana Randimbivololona, PhD bio link
Fana Randimbivololona, PhD
Academic Assistant/Coordinator and Lecturer
Lucie Razafindramiadana bio link
Lucie Razafindramiadana
Rural Homestay Coordinator
Martine Razanadraibe bio link
Martine Razanadraibe
Urban Homestay Coordinator
Patricia Randrianavony, PhD bio link
Patricia Randrianavony, PhD
Program Assistant
José Narcisse Randria, MD bio link
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 nearly 1 million in scholarships and grants to SIT Study Abroad students.

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