Health and Human Development in Africa

January 2018 | Durban, Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town, South Africa


Journey across four major South African cities and into the surrounding townships and villages, studying the complex interplay between modern and traditional medicine. Shadow doctors at the world’s largest hospital, in Johannesburg, and visit the surgical rooms where the first human heart transplant was performed, in Cape Town. Contrast these modern health institutions with herbal markets and traditional healing centers in and outside Durban. Stop in Pretoria, the seat of national government, to ground your experiences in historical and political contexts.


Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Health
Explore a health care model that integrates Westernized, science-based medicine with traditional cultural and spiritual healing practices. Observe how the South African concept of health embraces multiple dimensions—mind, body and soul—and how medicine is practiced holistically across African life. Draw comparisons with the cure-based, drug-intensive orientation of Westernized medicine and consider to what extent this approach is embraced—or not—by South Africans.

International Insights on Development
Broaden your concept of development beyond economics. The South African model holds that all aspects of well-being—religion and spirituality, culture and community—are central to human progress. But integrating a holistic approach into international development strategies presents challenges. How does South African society, from religious institutions to churches to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), address these issues and how might a multidimensional approach enhance economic progress in emerging nations?


Experiential Learning
Witness and study integrated medicine in action through visits to both traditional and modern healing centers, in both urban and rural settings. Shrines, prayer camps and herbal centers are as much a part of South African health care as hospitals and clinics. Interview caregivers and clients, using social science research methods to examine the multiple contexts—social, cultural, religious, economic and political—that inform health care practice in South Africa.

Community Engagement
Engage in 15 to 20 hours of service-learning work, with at least two placements within three health care sectors. Depending on your interest, you might attend rounds with a physician at JMH Isipingo Hospital in Durban, shadow a sangoma (indigenous healer) or inyanga (herbalist) in the rural townships outside Durban, or partake in policy discussions with local officials, religious leaders or representatives of NGOs such as WHO and UNICEF.

Research Project
Complete a substantive research paper on a topic of your choice, from spirit possession in traditional medicine to the unintended social consequences of Westernized medicine. Integrate insights from secondary sources with the primary data collected from your own research, interviews and on-site observations in South Africa. Finally, present your paper in a public forum on the Drew campus.