UMD-WINTER: India: East Meets West: Contrasting Public Health Priorities, Pragmatics and Polemics in the US and India

As we head further into the 21st century, India and the U.S. represent our two largest democracies. Based on culture, history, governance and politics, these two countries have adopted similar and unique ways of addressing public health concerns. This course, designed for students who are interested in public health in a global context, will expose participants to policy and programmatic frameworks for the delivery of public health services in these two cultures. Students will explore global public health and its complexities through a combination of in-class instruction and lively discussion with Manipal MPH students and faculty, and field trips to community-based programs. 

To enhance the academic content of the course and the immersion experience, students will visit schools, villages, Ayurvedic and Allopathic clinics/hospitals, worksites and community settings where public health is practiced. Excursions are planned to the famous pilgrimage centre of Udupi, 15th century temples in Karkala, Malpe fishing village, and St. Mary's Island. A 4 day trip to Kerala, "God's Own Country," is also planned, including a visit to THE WEEK news magazine and briefing by the health reporter, a backwater journey/overnight on a traditional  Kettuvallam houseboat, elephant ride and Kathakali dance performance.

Donna Howard, Associate Professor in the Department of Behavioral and Community health developed, organizes and accompanies students each winter to India.  She said this about the trip:

“During my sabbatical year in the fall of 2008, I went to south India as a Fulbright Fellow.  I was hosted by Manipal University in their Department of Community Medicine.  I was exposed to the practice of public health and preventive medicine in an Indian context.   Even before I returned to UMaryland, I was determined to return to this wondrous and magical country and elite institution. And that is why I developed the winter study abroad. 

Here is what students have said about this study abroad experience:

Manipal is a wonderful town and university that will forever hold a special place in my heart. The people I met there and the special moments we had emphasized to me the value of hospitality, of always questioning what you hear, and of striving to be better whenever possible. The people of Manipal and India at large inspire me, and I cannot wait to see where the country is in another five, ten, or fifty years.” 

“It’s one of those things that you wish you could live through over and over again. You can still remember every feeling, smell every scent, and hear every noise. You can still picture every sight and laugh at every funny thing you saw or did. Everyone has those experiences, and there is no doubt that one of mine is India… Being in the field and witnessing problems, solutions, programs, and interventions and talking to professors, doctors, and community members gave me perspective that no textbook can really encapsulate. Though I am not a public health major, this trip helped and changed me in many ways. I don’t have to be going into public health to take what I have seen and learned and apply it to my life and my profession.”

Going through all of this with a group of friends helped me grow as individual as well. I made new friends along the way, and learned to work with different types of people with the group presentation and discussing as a group with professors about the public health sector… I feel that experiencing all of these facets of Indian culture has helped me grow as an individual and allowed me understand the world and how it works a little better.”

For more information on how to be involved with this program click here.