Brazil: Public Health, Race, and Human Rights
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Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.
“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 firsthand experience with the world of public health was invaluable.”
Educational excursions are an integral part of the program, complementing classroom learning and thematic coursework. Visits to underprivileged areas give students a deeper understanding of how historical oppression affects the lives of the poor in Brazil today.
Topics raised during 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 to get their perspectives on the challenges of providing equitable and high-quality care to communities that face unique challenges. Students also interact with professionals in healthcare-related areas of work.
Students also have excursions to federal, state, and municipal health facilities and Afro-Brazilian religious centers, as well as to the Irmandade da Boa Morte, a religious sisterhood founded in the nineteenth century by former slaves, in Cachoeira.
Terreiro de Candomblé
A terreiro (temple) 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 is home to a quilombo community, and it 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 differ greatly from that of the mainland population. Until recently, the island was fairly isolated, 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 during religious activities. (This occurs not only in Ilha de Mare, but also in Salvador.)
Traveling by boat, students spend a day on Ilha de Maré learning about issues related to the health status of its inhabitants. They also study 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 — interacts and impacts 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.
Southern City of Ilhéus
The program’s one-week excursion to the southern region of Bahia exposes students to different aspects of Brazil’s healthcare system, with an emphasis on primary healthcare. 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-day operations and activities of the health facilities.
Duration: 15 weeks
Program Base: Salvador
Language Study: Portuguese
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