Global Health Issues

When:July 6 - Aug 10, 2023
Where:South Africa
Duration:4 Weeks
Credits:4 Credits (1 Course)
Deadline:March 1st
Program Guide:Orientation Packet
Get Notified When Applications are Open

Course Overview

This program will allow you to explore a range of health issues and medical practices in South Africa through an interdisciplinary lens. An integrated learning model which incorporates both classroom and field instruction will help you understand the fundamental principle of health as a human rights issue. You will conduct collaborative research projects and participate in a three-night homestay in a village in the remote HaMakuya area of Limpopo Province.

Global Health has become the banner terminology to describe a seemingly new discipline. As Paul Farmer has articulated most recently, “Global Health is not a discipline, it is a set of problems” (2013: xv).[1] The issues Global Health describes affect human populations globally and unevenly. Global Health investigates the links between health, economics, politics, and anthropology as it refers to macrocosmic, transnational influences with localized, microcosmic impact. As such, Global Health encompasses, but is not limited to, the study of infectious disease and its social contextualization, the impact of international economic and social policies on health disparities and inequities, and the relationships between local social structures, belief systems, and health. Global Health is multidisciplinary in its character and draws from public and international health, the social, economic, and political sciences, anthropology, environmental science, and studies of non-biomedical medicine and social structures.

We maintain the view that Global Health teaching should follow the “Health for All” approach as stipulated by the World Health Organization and incorporate the principles of equity, solidarity, and participation. As a field at the intersection of medicine and the social sciences, Global Health teaching necessarily incorporates a human rights-based, social justice approach in its framework. Students are expected to learn from global frameworks, and then be able to apply the learned frameworks in local contexts (hence the adage; “Think global, act local”).

Our teaching methods include formal lectures, but as much emphasis will be placed on fieldwork, student research projects as well as site visits (including the interactions with healthcare providers, non-biomedical healers, and patients, and research both individually and in groups). Course lecturers and faculty act as facilitators of the students’ learning process – we accompany and support the process, provide input when needed, facilitate discussions, and challenge students’ perceptions. Students will primarily learn by experiencing the practical context of the theory they are taught in lectures, and readings, engaging with the field and local communities, drawing on personal reflection, and by engaging with each other.

[1] Farmer, P., Kleinman, A., Kim, J., & Basilico, M. (Eds.). (2013). Reimagining global health: an introduction (Vol. 26). University of California Press.


The curriculum of this course consists of two equally important teaching approaches. Formal teaching includes lectures and talks and will provide the theoretical base for the experiential learning. Experiential learning includes site visits, community interaction and homestays, student research projects, and the general exposure to the South African context. Each experiential learning activity is followed by a debriefing and discussion session, which will be facilitated by a faculty member. These sessions stimulate debate and personal reflection and are vital to personal and academic growth.

Global Health Issues (4 credits): AH 4660 – University of Connecticut, Syllabus

Integrates classroom & field instruction, introduces students to the fundamental principles of public health in South Africa. Focus on three major themes; primary health care in South Africa, the impact of HIV/Aids & the role of traditional healers.


OTS semester programs are open to all undergraduate students in good standing with their home institution who are at least 18 years of age and have a minimum 2.7 GPA. Students applying to the Global Health Issues summer course must have completed the equivalent of one semester of college-level biology (or related coursework). If you are unsure if you meet these requirements, please contact us at

Sites Visited

The course starts in Johannesburg where students are immersed in the political and social context of South African history. After a preliminary introduction to OTS, students visit the Apartheid museum to experience and learn in detail about life in apartheid-era South Africa. Testimonies to apartheid’s influence on health can be found throughout the museum. Furthermore, students visit the Origins Centre for a walkabout with a guide and go on a tour of Constitution Hill. Once the central prison for political prisoners, this museum now is adjacent to the Constitutional Court of South Africa where some of the leading cases on health in post-apartheid South Africa have been heard in a legal arena. Constitutional Hill, particularly the court serves as a powerful reminder of the struggles fought (both historically and ongoing) to realize a more equitable and democratic South Africa. Students will also have lectures about infectious disease and key health indicators in South Africa round off the programme in Johannesburg.

After a travel day the next segment of the course is taught in the HaMakuya district of Limpopo Province. This 10-day segment provides hands-on research experience for students and allows them to immerse themselves in the daily life of a rural Venda community. It provides intimate insight into health care on a primary care level. After three introductory days with lectures in community-based participatory research methodology, medical anthropology, Venda language, as well as preparation of the research projects. The students will spend 3 days on homestay with a local Venda family. These homestays are organized in groups of 4-5 students (students will be assigned to a group by faculty). During the homestay, students will be assisted by a translator guide to live with the family and participate in everyday activities to fully experience life in HaMakuya. The homestays are also the time when students collect data for their research projects. The students will be working on various research projects which can include both quantitative and qualitative research. Additionally, the community of HaMakuya has identified five health challenges/concerns in which they would like to see annual research being facilitated with approval from the Limpopo department of Health.

Projects that students in the past have worked on have included:

  1. Environmental Health: Issues of water and sanitation
  2. Health systems: Access to health care and patterns of care
  3. Non-biomedical healers and non-biomedical medicine: Care-seeking behaviour
  4. Public Health: Incidence and prevalence of TB
  5. Medical Anthropology: Aetiological models and perceptions of Malaria transmission

Each research group will be supervised by a faculty member. The research projects will pick up on topics that were taught in the first two segments of the course and combine the theory from previous lectures with site visits and homestay experiences. The student will further have to draw from both the physical and electronic library for resources to contextualize and analyze data collected.

NB: Research projects are subject to ethical clearance by the Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) at the University of Cape Town. If for some reason ethics clearance is not provided, we have an alternative research project proposal each group will develop in lieu of the deliverable.

After the homestay is a day of debriefing and discussion about the experiences, followed by the beginning of data analysis. Lectures will provide further context of the health situations that students have witnessed during the homestay. At the end of the projects, the research conducted by the students will be condensed into a larger report that will be presented to the Limpopo Department of Health. The last day in HaMakuya is a free day and students can relax and explore the surrounding area.

After the stay in HaMakuya, student and faculty travel to Wits Rural Facility, near Acornhoek and the Kruger National Park. This 7-day segment of the course provides the academic background for future experiences. At Wits Rural, the emphasis will be on the key health issues in South Africa, which will be taught through lectures combined with site visits (The unique community nursery for non-biomedical medicinal plants; Vukuzenzele, an outreach programme for non-biomedical healers, a malaria lab, the local water surveillance programme, home visits with community health workers). Lecture topics include infectious disease (including HIV, TB, malaria, and waterborne diseases), non-biomedical healing and medicine, rural livelihoods. Guest lecturers will present their work and research, and students will interact with, and learn from, the local community. The last day at Wits Rural is a free day and students can visit and explore the nearby Blyde River Canyon as well as other attractions including an animal conservation outfit.

We will arrive after a final travel day in Skukuza, the headquarters of Kruger National Park. The final segment of the course is taught here in the camp for one week. In the quiet atmosphere of the camp, students have the opportunity to finish their academic deliverables. This is also the opportunity to go on game drives and experience some of the amazing wild life that the Kruger Park is world famous for. After a final day of evaluation and research symposium, students leave for Johannesburg.

Throughout the course, students have the opportunity to use the traveling library, which hosts a comprehensive collection of books. Faculty will also provide relevant readings and additional resources from the OTS resource database on an external hard drive. Selected films round off the academic teaching and provide an in-depth view on some of the issues presented throughout the course; including films that focus on gender and health, LGBTQI rights, non-bio medical healing, and intellectual property rights (IPO) of indigenous people in Southern Africa as well as well-known South African films from different eras.


$6,900: students from non-member institutions

$5,900: students from OTS member institutions

Tuition and fees cover:

  • Room and board at hotels, homestays, and research stations
  • Local travel to program sites
  • Participation of many local and international healthcare officials, public health researchers, doctors, and other experts
  • Laundry costs

Tuition and fees do not cover:

  • International travel
  • Independent travel
  • Incidentals
  • Personal spending



OTS is committed to providing opportunities to all eligible students interested in participating in our programs. We make scholarship applications available to students upon acceptance into an OTS program and offer limited funding on a rolling basis. So apply early!




Housing & Meals

For most of the program, you will be living with other students in large dormitory rooms, cottages with 4 – 6 students, and smaller cottages with 2 students per room. Because of these group living situations, we all have to be conscious of other people’s comfort and convenience. We must keep our personal space organized (so keep your baggage to a minimum!) We also need to make sure that our comings and goings at night and in the early morning disrupt our fellow companions as little as possible. We will try to schedule short periods of time in every day when you will be free to go for a run, play soccer or Frisbee, take a swim, amble over to the grocery store, write postcards, or catch up on your reading and studying. The intent, when possible, is to give you one free day per week with no scheduled events. You may use this time to catch up on work or to take a mental break.

Meals are provided by our caterers, Shadreck and Co., who refer to themselves as AggyShadow Catering Company. The food is fantastic and regularly cited as one of the highlights of the program. Therefore, we warn you in advance about the possibility of expanding waistlines! The menu is highly varied and dinners usually consist of a variety of choices of side dishes (with an occasional and highly-sought-after dessert menu). The program caters for those with special dietary restrictions (i.e., vegetarians and vegans) or food allergies but please list all such restrictions/allergies on the OTS Medical Form so that Shadreck can prepare accordingly.

Passport & Visa Information

If you do not have a passport, please apply for one immediately! You will be asked to provide your passport information to OTS on several registration forms. You must ensure that your passport has two facing blank pages. Also, make sure that your passport is valid for at least six months after the end date of the program. If you plan to enter South Africa before the program officially begins, or extend your stay after the program ends, making your stay in South Africa longer than 90 days, you must contact your regional South African Consulate to apply for a Visitor’s Visa. If you are not a US citizen, contact your regional South African Consulate or Embassy immediately to determine passport and visa requirements. Should you need proof of program participation, please contact OTS Enrollment Management at

Health & Safety

OTS is deeply committed to student safety and well-being, we do not expose students to unnecessary danger or risk. We monitor national and international events that might affect our students. Five decades of risk assessment, emergency response, and crisis resolution have enabled OTS to maximize student safety and security. All students participate in an on-site orientation program upon arrival. For our most current safety information, contact OTS Enrollment Management at

Covid-19 Vaccination Policy

To participate in an OTS, field-based program, students must be fully vaccinated against Covid-19. If you are not fully vaccinated, you will be required to quarantine for at least 5 days upon arrival to the host country, test negative for Covid-19 prior to your involvement in the program, and you must also adhere to additional health and safety measures. This policy is subject to change.