Brazil: Public Health, Race, and Human Rights
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“Shadowing the health officials and seeing exactly what they did really opened my mind and let me see what life really is as a health professional. The fact that we got first-hand experience with the world of public health was invaluable.”
Educational excursions are an integral part of the program, complementing classroom learning and thematic coursework. Many of the visits are to underprivileged areas and give participants a deeper understanding of how historical oppression affects the lives of the poor in Brazil today. Topics raised during the excursions include:
- Racial inequality and politics in Brazil
- Historical oppression and social exclusion of Afro Brazilians
- Political mobilization, racial democracy, and identity
- Health, environmental, and social justice
- Alternative and public healthcare options and outcomes
- Social determinants of health
During excursions, students interact with community leaders and residents, learning about their struggles to survive and how they try and acquire adequate healthcare for themselves, their families, and communities. Students also participate in healthcare-related work experiences that contribute to the well-being of many of the individuals and communities they encounter throughout the semester.
Terreiro de Candomblé
A Terreiro de Candomblé is a shrine or temple for the parishioners of Candomblé, one of the most widespread Afro Brazilian belief systems and practices in contemporary Brazil. In Candomblé, health is integrated into the notion of a mystic universe, and the human body is not separate from the spirit of life. Candomblé helps to promote the healing process, which often takes place in the terreiro. In a country where most of the poor have limited access to institutionalized health facilities, the terreiro functions as an important place for health treatment and other types of support. During the excursion to a Terreiro de Candomblé, students speak with priests, priestesses, and parishioners about their beliefs and experiences.
Ilha de Maré (Tide Island)
Located at the northern end of the Bahia de Todos os Santos (The Bay of All Saints), Ilha de Maré houses a quilombo—a rural community founded by former slaves—and is the ancestral home of the program's current academic director, Damiana de Miranda. Although the island is not far in distance from the city of Salvador, the history and living conditions of its residents differs greatly from that of the mainland population. The island has been fairly isolated until recently, making it an ideal place to observe and participate in the life of an Afro Brazilian community. The island has no roads or cars, and in the township of Praia Grande some residents still communicate in African languages. (This occurs not only in Ilha de Mare but also in Salvador.)
Students spend a day on Ilha de Maré learning about issues related to the health status of its inhabitants and also the environmental problems affecting the community, particularly local fishermen. During this excursion, students experience and discuss how social exclusion—understood as lack of access to health services, formal education, transportation, potable water, and employment—affects the life of Afro Brazilians.
The program has a four-day excursion to Cachoeira. Students stay in a rural area, where they visit public health services, educational institutions, and traditional healers; they also have the chance to talk with area residents.
Santo Antonio de Jesus This one-week excursion seeks to expose the students to different aspects of Brazil’s healthcare system with an emphasis on primary care. For one week, students shadow health professionals—primarily community health agents—and undertake community visits and interviews. The main goal of the experience is to understand the day-to-to day operations and activities of the health facilities.
Duration: 15 weeks
Program Base: Brazil, Salvador
Language Study: Portuguese
Prerequisites: None, although a background in Portuguese, Spanish, or another Romance language is highly recommended. Read more...
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