Brazil: Public Health, Race, and Human Rights
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The Brazil: Public Health, Race, and Human Rights program examines Brazil's healthcare policies and allows students to observe through firsthand experience how these policies are put into practice. Throughout the semester, students are deeply immersed in Nordeste, Brazil's northeast region and home to some of the poorest areas in the southern hemisphere. Nordeste gives students an exceptional window into the assortment of challenges confronting populations living in areas designated as the developing world. Through lectures, seminars, and site visits, SIT faculty and partners, including health care workers, researchers, and local activists, reveal the complexities of Brazil's healthcare system as well as the country's extraordinarily diverse population.
The program consists of three phases: a seven-week homestay in Salvador; a four-week period during which students visit African Diaspora and other communities in rural areas; and a three to four-week period in which students focus on an Independent Study Project (ISP). Each phase broadens students' understanding of the healthcare needs and realities of Brazil's historically marginalized peoples and the implications of various approaches to healthcare provision.
During the first seven weeks of the program, students live with host families in Salvador, the capital of the state of Bahia and home to Brazil's largest Afro Brazilian population. Salvador was Brazil's first capital city and the former center of the Portuguese colonial empire; in 1985 the city was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its historical importance, cultural vibrancy, and aesthetic appeal. Read more about this designation.
In Salvador students participate in lectures ranging from the racial, religious, economic, and regional diversity of Brazil, to the country's national health system in comparison to other health systems throughout Latin America and the world. Lectures are conducted mainly in Portuguese with translation. Thematic coursework provides a framework through which students will examine their experiences in the field during the program's second and third phases.
During the second phase of the program, students visit at least two quilombos—urban and rural communities founded by former slaves—to live with community members for several days and participate in community welfare projects. The more than 1,000 quilombos dotting the northeast region of Brazil have been historically isolated and excluded from mainstream Brazilian society. During this phase of the program, students gain firsthand exposure to communities facing extremely poor living conditions and healthcare access. Other excursions include short trips to federal, state, and municipal health facilities and Afro Brazilian religious centers, as well as to the Black Sisterhood, Ir mandade da Boa Morte, in Cachoeira.
Educational excursions relate directly to the program's Public Health Research Methods and Ethics Seminar, which instructs students on the techniques, methods, and ethics necessary for successful research. The seminar focuses on how to collect, analyze, integrate, and report social and public health data to critically understand and evaluate program-related public health issues. Specific public health field study methods may include:
- Concepts and objectives of scientific research
- Basic techniques used in public health research
- Data collection and analysis
- Epidemiology and considerations in the Brazilian context
- Ethical issues related to public health projects and research
Independent Study Project
Students spend the final four weeks of the semester engaged in an Independent Study Project (ISP). Students conduct their projects in Salvador, the state of Bahia, or with program approval, another area of the Brazilian northeast. Engaging in primary research, students critically examine a topic related to public policy and community welfare in Brazil. Sample topic areas include:
- Factors affecting human health in a quilombo community
- Psychiatric illness and community outreach
- The empowerment of women
- Women's health
- Healing in the Candomblé tradition
- Brazilian HIV/AIDS policy and programs
- The health situation of adolescent mothers and their offspring
Duration: 15 weeks
Program Base: 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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