South Africa: Community Health and Social Policy
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Examine community health care concerns from a South African perspective.
The program explores the way that health issues are researched, communicated, and addressed, emphasizing the role of research, the influence of the media, the roles of the state and private enterprise, and the agency of community members.
Orientation in Johannesburg and Durban
The program begins with a three-day orientation in Johannesburg. Highlights of the orientation include:
- A guided tour of the Hector Pieterson Museum and Nelson Mandela House in Soweto
- Lunch at Wandi’s Tavern, a historic site where activists formerly congregated
- A drop off exploration of the Durban City Centre
Durban as program base
In Durban, health services range from traditional healers to state-of-the-art hospitals. The city faces public health challenges of immense proportions, and Durban lies near the epicenter of southern Africa’s HIV pandemic. Cultural views on health and varying levels of wealth and education influence access to and acceptance of public health services.
In this context, students are challenged to articulate Durban and South Africa’s health complexities in a balanced way. Students learn how to be critical consumers of medical research papers and media reports on health. They are also encouraged to think more broadly about the perceived dichotomy between Western and traditional medical practice and to appreciate the importance of acceptability and accessibility.
Community health lecture series
Through the program’s Community Health Lecture Series, students learn about a selected range of diseases, prevention programs, and health interventions. Lecturers include academics, health care workers, and researchers.
Zulu language instruction
Students receive 45 class hours of intensive language instruction in Zulu, with an emphasis on beginning speaking and comprehension skills. Students also have the opportunity to practice Zulu with host family members during the homestays.
Independent Study Project
For four weeks, students conduct original research on a topic of particular interest to them that is relevant in the context of South Africa. The Independent Study Project (ISP) is conducted in Durban or in another approved location appropriate to the project. This period may include volunteering at a school, clinic, or NGO. For most students, the ISP is the highlight of the semester. Ethical health research can be done by students who develop relationships of trust in a community, but access to medical facilities is only possible on a volunteer practicum basis with no research permissible.
Sample topic areas for the ISP include:
- Prenatal health care
- Sociological consequences of HIV/AIDS
- Public health education campaigns
- Sustainable development and health care
- Local attitudes about access to health care facilities
- Indigenous healing practices
- Music and its effects on HIV-positive South Africans
- Mental health issues and available health care
- Reproductive health in rural South Africa
View Student Evaluations for this program: