Learn how communities around the world understand and strive for health and well-being.
Compare strategies of health and community across four radically different country contexts and at global and local scales, through case studies, ethnographic research, and visits with a diverse array of health practitioners and local activists.
The program takes a holistic, interdisciplinary view of academic topics, drawing not only on articles and faculty lectures, but also experiential education in the form of student observations and experiences in the field, with guest lectures and homestay families to facilitate learning. Assignments typically involve written essays, oral presentations, and more creative projects such as posters and photo stories.
Learn how communities around the world understand what it is to achieve and maintain health and well-being.
Explore the health realities all citizens face amid mounting challenges created by changing social, environmental, and economic forces
Strengthen your ability to understand, interpret, and compare the socio-cultural, ecological, economic, political, and biological factors that affect human health.
Experience a three-day retreat outside of Buenos Aires at the end of the semester.
Critical Global Issue of Study
None, but previous college-level coursework and/or other preparation in public health, anthropology, biology, or other related fields is strongly recommended.
Key Topics of Study
Key Topics of Study
- How a deeper understanding of culture can transform our view of health
- Whether health is a fundamental human right and, If so, who is responsible for guaranteeing it
- Possible solutions to the health inequities—between rich and poor, urban and rural—that exist around the world
- The role of public health in the global context and how the forces of globalization impact health and healthcare
- How grassroots activism and top-down approaches to health conflict with or complement one another
- The role of community in health and well-being and how different people understand what it is to be a healthy person in varied cultural contexts
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.
- Health, Culture, and Community – syllabus
- (ANTH3050 / 4 credits / 60 hours)
- 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 – syllabus
- (IPBH3500 / 4 credits / 60 hours)
- 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 – syllabus
- (IPBH3505 / 4 credits / 60 hours)
- 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 – syllabus
- (IPBH3510 / 4 credits / 60 hours)
- 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.
Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.
Washington, DC, US
The seat of government for one of the richest nations in the world and hub of international policymaking, Washington, DC, is also home to some of the greatest wealth disparities of any city in the United States. Over the course of two weeks in DC, you will explore the diverse neighborhoods and local NGOs of DC; meet with community leaders, activists, and government officials; and begin to develop your own toolbox for effecting change by learning from the successes and failures of others. You will gain deeper insight into the many challenges of and solutions to health and disease at national and local levels while preparing for your exploration of similar issues internationally.
Hear from global health experts at international NGOs while observing firsthand how health inequities affect those living near the halls of world political power. Investigate some of the many social determinants of health, such as access to housing, transportation, and education, as well as gender, race, sexual orientation, disability, citizenship status, and income and examine how these inequities have led to some of the country’s worst health outcomes.
One of Southeast Asia’s most vibrant and rapidly developing nations, Vietnam has succeeded in dramatically reducing poverty, yet considerable challenges remain. Some of the country’s most vexing health-related issues include an HIV/AIDS epidemic that threatens to become widespread, enormous demands placed on health systems from rising rural-to-urban migration, widening social inequalities, and worsening environmental conditions.
The whirring of motorbikes, the calls of fresh fruit vendors, and the clang of new building projects fill the air in Hanoi, where you will be hosted by the Institute of Population, Health, and Development. This dynamic NGO, formed by experienced public health experts, implements a range of health research and development programs, such as online HIV/AIDS and sexuality education for migrant workers and HIV prevention for most-at-risk populations.
Hanoi Medical School, Vietnam’s premier medical education institution, is known for leading medical training in Vietnam and will serve as co-host. This combination will provide you with a rare opportunity to study with Vietnam’s finest public health professionals and observe firsthand, through visits to project and field sites, creative efforts to resolve some of the country’s greatest health challenges.
You will have a homestay in Hanoi and a weeklong stay in Lac Village where you will visit ethnic Thai and Hmong villages in the surrounding hillsides.
Cape Town, South Africa
The complex colonial and apartheid history of South Africa has entrenched a social, economic, and political climate that remains part of the country’s contemporary condition. Disparity of wealth and unequal distribution of resources provide a distinct backdrop to analyze and explore how the country’s past affects South Africans’ ability to access quality healthcare with dignity. In addition, Africa faces an increasing number of public health crises, with HIV/AIDS and TB epidemics at the fore.
You will have the opportunity to meet and interact with community activists, physicians, public health practitioners, and officials as they seek to understand domestic and community health in a country whose citizens are deeply committed to radical political, social, and economic transformation. You will spend time in two distinct areas: one near Cape Town’s central business district in a diverse, predominantly working-class, neighborhood; the other in a less urban space just outside of the greater Cape Town area. These distinct locations will allow you to see firsthand communities in transition and the effects of political and economic structures on health and community life.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
With a population of 14 million, Buenos Aires—the most important and influential city in Argentina, both politically and economically—is the perfect place to experience and study the complexities of living and surviving in a globalized city immersed in a Latin American context. Shaped by massive waves of immigration, both past and present, this cosmopolitan city stands out because of the delicate equilibrium between tradition and modernity that characterizes it.
Immersed in a context of rapid growth and globalized development since mid-2000, Argentina plays a fundamental role in a region characterized by extreme inequalities in vast sectors of the population. In Argentina, a complete free public health system that covers every person residing in the country coexists with two others, a private sector and a semi-private labor union sector, both powerful and competitive.
While in Buenos Aires, you will visit a variety of healthcare settings, from primary health centers to regional hospitals. During a rural stay, panels with agricultural producers and health workers provide insights into the specificities of health access in remote areas.
Faculty and Staff
Faculty and Staff
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
SherriLynn received her doctorate in cultural anthropology from the University of Virginia in 2012 and a BA in anthropology (1998) and an MA in music (2001), with distinction, at California State University, Fresno. From 2005 to 2012, with support from the National Science Foundation and the University of Virginia Faculty Senate Fellowship award for scholarly achievement and excellence in teaching, she conducted ethnographic research on disaster recovery, nonprofits, urban traditions, and community-based social activities in New Orleans. Her research explored issues highlighted by disaster and recovery: how racial inequities align with health disparities, how environment and social policy act as determinants of community health, and the vital role of community in one’s ability to achieve personal health and well-being. SherriLynn has worked and volunteered for several nonprofit organizations in the last decade while also researching how nonprofit organizations retain and reward labor. Her current intellectual interests are focused on holistic community well-being, ethnography, and the ethical considerations of representation. SherriLynn has worked in higher education for more than a dozen years as both teacher and administrator at California State University, Fresno; the University of New Orleans; and the University of Virginia. She has been with SIT since 2011.
Zufan Hagos, MA, Program Manager
Zufan holds a BS in secondary education and Spanish from the University of Vermont and an MA in international education from SIT Graduate Institute. Zufan’s work has focused on multicultural education, service-learning, language acquisition, and international education. Prior to joining IHP, Zufan worked with Putney Student Travel, National Geographic Student Expeditions, and the Center for International Studies designing, managing, and facilitating middle, high school, and college level programs in Central and South America, Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean.
Susan Sakash, MA, Program Coordinator and Launch Coordinator, Washington, DC
Susan received a master’s degree in social innovation and sustainability from Goddard College in 2015. Her graduate research focused on strengthening solidarity and cooperative economies by looking at how these frameworks and strategies inform the myriad local food system efforts both within the city of New Orleans and across the Deep South. For her undergraduate studies, Susan attended Wesleyan University, where she studied abroad in Madrid, Spain, as part of a Spanish-language immersion program. Susan has explored how people and communities grow stronger through mutual aid and collective action. She has curated socially engaged public art projects in Dublin, Ireland; lived in intentional communities in Costa Rica; and organized community gardens and street music festivals around the US. She joined SIT in 2014.
Vu Cong Nguyen MD, MPH, Country Coordinator, Vietnam
Vu Cong is the deputy director of the Institute of Population Health and Development. He was previously director of the Family Health Research Center, lecturer at Hanoi Medical School, program officer with the United Nations Fund for Population Activities, and program officer with Family Health International. Currently, Nguyen is leading several HIV/AIDS research and intervention projects in Vietnam that target most-at-risk populations and implementing an HIV prevention project targeting young Vietnamese soldiers completing mandatory military service. Vu Cong obtained his medical doctorate from Hanoi Medical School in 1993 and a master’s of public health at Brown University in 2005. He is also a founder of the Vietnamese Society for HIV/AIDS Medicine and a member of the Vietnamese Public Health Association and American Public Health Association.
Laura Winterton, MA, Country Coordinator, South Africa
Laura completed a master’s degree in social anthropology at the University of Cape Town in 2013 and is working on her PhD in social anthropology at the University of Edinburgh. She holds a Wellcome Trust scholarship as part of a larger project, Understanding TB Control: Technologies, Ethics and Programmes. Laura’s research is based in Cape Town, where she examines the legal, social, and ethical dimensions of TB care to prisoner populations. Her work moves between the clinic, court, correctional facilities, and communities as a way to explore the complexity of delivery and receiving uninterrupted TB treatment to such a vulnerable population.
Carolina Rovetta, MFA, Country Coordinator, Argentina
Carolina holds a five-year degree in arts from the University of Buenos Aires and a postgraduate degree in contemporary cinema and theater. She has been working in the field of international education for many years and designs several academic and immersion programs in Argentina for students and institutions from abroad. Carolina has written several pedagogical guides on cultural activities in immersion. She also is very interested in arts and culture and works as a cultural facilitator for the city of Buenos Aires. She first began working with IHP in 2005 and helped establish the Cities in the 21st Century program in Buenos Aires. From there, she was asked to design the Health and Community program and has been working with this program since 2008.
Laura Steil, PhD, Traveling Faculty
Laura obtained her PhD in anthropology from the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes in Paris.
Her research focuses on marginalized groups, such as migrants and their children. She is especially interested in mental health and explores how the psychological repercussions of exile, marginalization, and discrimination are made sense of and dealt with by combining “traditional” and biomedical systems of interpretation and healing. In past years, she taught medical anthropology in a nursing college located in a poor Parisian outer city; co-designed an interdisciplinary course on the urban experience bridging anthropology, psychology, and architecture; and worked in a hospital unit approaching mental health from a transcultural perspective.
Luciana Serrano, MA, Trustees’ Fellow
Luciana was born in Buenos Aires but spent a few of her first years in Washington, DC. She is currently a student of social and cultural anthropology in the University of San Martin. She is mostly interested in the study of informality in Latin America at the intersection of postcolonial and urban studies, emphasizing the co-production of habitat and participatory practices. Luciana has extensive training in photography, specializing in documentary and journalistic reporting. She has conducted collaborative research in numerous groups and projects that approach their subjects through an interdisciplinary lens. For the past four years Luciana has been the assistant to the country coordinator in Argentina, working for two IHP programs. She was the spring 2016 Trustees’ Fellow.
The homestay is an integral part of the SIT experience. During your homestay, you’ll become a member of a local family, sharing meals with them, joining them for special occasions, talking with them in their language, and experiencing the host country through their eyes. Homestay placements are arranged by a local coordinator who carefully screens and approves each family. Students frequently cite the homestay as the highlight of their program. Read more about SIT homestays.
You will live with a host family for between two and four weeks at each program site, with the exception of the first location. Homestays are the primary form of accommodation on the program; other accommodations can include guest houses, hostels, dormitories, and/or small hotels.
Family structures vary in every place. For example, the host family may include a single mother of two small children or a large extended family with many people coming and going all the time. Please bear in mind that the idea of what constitutes a “home” (i.e., the physical nature of the house) may be different from what you expect. You will need to be prepared to adapt to a new life with a new diet, a new schedule, new people, and possibly new priorities and expectations.
Country coordinators in each location arrange homestay placements. In most cases, students will be placed in homestays in pairs, with placements made to best accommodate health concerns, including allergies or dietary needs. You will not receive information about homestay families until you arrive in each country.
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
Cost and Scholarships
Cost and 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.
SIT Pell Grant Match Award. SIT Study Abroad provides matching grants to students receiving Federal Pell Grant funding for the term during which they are studying with SIT. This award can be applied to any SIT program. Qualified students must complete the scholarship portion of their application. View all SIT Study Abroad scholarships.
Tuition: Not yet available.
The tuition fee covers the following program components:
- Content and logistics for field programs in Washington, DC; Hanoi; Cape Town; and Buenos Aires
- Cost of all lecturers who provide instruction to students in:
- Locally taught classes
- Public Health
- Globalization and Health
- Classes taught by traveling faculty
- Health, Culture, and Community
- Community Health Research Methods
- Locally taught classes
- Guest lectures and panel discussions
- Site visit hosts and facilitators
- Transportation to classroom spaces and daily program activities
- All educational excursions to rural stays, including all related travel costs
- Traveler’s health insurance throughout the entire program period
- Instructional materials
- Other direct program costs
Note: Break costs are not covered by program fees; students are responsible for this.
- Group travel during the program
- This travel includes all flights and a flight back to a city in the US at the conclusion of the program, arranged by our travel agent.
Room & Board: Not yet available.
The room and board fee covers the following program components:
- All accommodations during the entire program, except the vacation period. This includes during orientation, time in all four countries, urban and rural stays, all excursions, and the final retreat. Accommodation is covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend provided to each student, or through the homestay.
- All homestays in Hanoi, Cape Town, and Buenos Aires
- All meals for the entire program, except the vacation period. Meals are covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend, or through the homestay.
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These letters home are from previous terms. Site locations may vary from term to term.