Undergraduate Opportunities

Global Health Issues
Summer Program in South Africa

  • Global Health Issues Summer Program in South Africa

Program Details

When: Summer 2017: Session 1: May 27 - June 25 / Session 2: July 5 - August 3

Duration 4 weeks

Credits: 1 course

Language: English

Deadline:March 1 

Field Notes: Undergraduate Blog

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Global Health Issues
Summer Program in South Africa



This course integrates classroom and field instruction to introduce students to the fundamental principles of South African medicine and public health systems.  Students will study topics including infectious diseases, epidemiology, virology and zoonosis, sexual health and reproductive issues, environmental health (vector ecology, water quality, waste management, entomology, toxicology), global health issues (emerging tropical diseases), and traditional and alternative medicine. Students will study current techniques and concerns in South African medicine and public health, analyze the impact of climate change for human health, and analyze the social and economic determinants that contribute to the expanding impact of infectious diseases. Students will learn firsthand about South Africa’s health care system, from the primary care in rural communities to large urban systems.


Visits will include primary health care facilities in rural areas including a homestay in a Venda community in Hamakuya (west of Kruger National Park). Students will also stay at the Wits Rural Facility, which is a community, supported in part by Witwatersrand University (an OTS consortium institution).  Located just west of Kruger National Park, the community is a model for studies on health care delivery and sustainability. In addition, students will have the opportunity to interview doctors and patients, analyze quarantine programs, conduct field research in biological and environmental areas relevant to human health, and learn how to document a disease-related case study.



The Global Health Issues in South Africa Summer program is comprised of one core course. 

Global Health Issues in South Africa

The program will focus on three major themes: primary health care in South Africa, the impact of HIV/AIDS, and the role of traditional healers. South Africa is described as an emerging third world economy, and is characterized as a blend of first world and third world societies. It is thus the ideal place to study the dynamics of the three major themes in different settings where we will assess the difference in public health issues in deep rural, peri-urban and urban communities.


As part of the program, students will be expected to attend lectures and field trips and engage in independent studies. Lectures, which will be provided by the course coordinator and experts, will be conducted in the field as much as possible to provide the best in-field training. Furthermore, site visits have been arranged to best compliment the lecture material so that students get the best possible practical experience to support the theory.

Students will work in groups to design and formulate a research project, carry out the field research for three days, analyze the data, and prepare a scientific report. The students will then deliver their results at the end of the program at a research symposium.

Specific goals

  1. Provide the participants with an introduction to South Africa’s primary health care system: priorities, strategies and efficacy.
  2. Help the participants understand more about the South African environment and its unique challenges, including diseases, cultural medicinal practices, and the growing concerns associated with international travel and globalization (including climate change impacts on health).
  3. Provide students with practical experience by visiting local hospitals, clinics, out-patient clinics, and possibly orphanages and mental health clinics.
  4. Study conceptual issues underlying current South African medicine and public health policies.
  5. Gain exposure to medical staff and experts in medicine and public health.
  6. Study key health-related issues faced by medical practitioners in rural versus urban areas (e.g., TB, stress-related illnesses, prenatal care, and childbirth).

Learn about the role of non-governmental organizations in supporting the national health care scheme.


Sites visited:


The program begins in the urban setting of Johannesburg (“Jozi”)—the commercial heart and the cultural melting pot of South Africa. Our short stay includes a visit to the Apartheid and Hector Peterson museums to gain some cultural perspective on your visit to South Africa, and the University of the Witwatersrand for your initial lectures on primary health care. Given the city’s reputation, we will be staying in backpacker style accommodation (six to a room) in a safe part of the city and traveling to the various sites by bus.

Wits Rural Facility

The trip from “Jozi” to Wits Rural Facility will take you through rural South Africa as we drop off the Drakensberg Escarpment down into the lowveld.  We will stop for a break in a town along the way to pick up snacks, film, cash, and other personal items.  Wits Rural Facility is located in a nature reserve on the outskirts of the Kruger National Park.  We have arranged a diverse and interesting program with several activities involving the local community (visits to clinics and a hospital, field trips to talk with community leaders about water management and the community economy) and a visit to see Rosie and the group of traditional healers at Vukuzenzele (“Rise up and do it for yourself”).  From Wits Rural Facility we will also visit the Blyde River Canyon and take a boat ride on the Blyde River. 

Wits Rural Facility is a peaceful camp, located out in the bushveld near the town of Acornhoek and has dormitory style accommodation with communal bathrooms.  It has a quiet relaxed atmosphere and there are no shopping areas nearby.  There is space to run, play soccer, Frisbee or volleyball or simply to go for a quiet walk by yourself. You will also visit the Kruger National Park during your stay at WRF.


The next leg of the summer forms an integral component of the deep rural leg of the program. Tsulu Camp, HaMakuya lies just outside of Kruger National Park. Situated in the Venda district in the north of the country, HaMakuya offers the opportunity to become immersed in the rich culture of the Venda people. During this period, the group will interact closely with host families during a 3-day homestay, spend time experiencing what life is like as a rural person in South Africa, learn more about rural medical programs, and about the interaction between people and parks (e.g., the conflict between elephants and farmers and economic spinoffs of tourism derived from conservation areas). It is here that you will first start to engage in your independent research.


The final leg of the Global Health course is spent at Skukuza in the Kruger National Park. Skukuza is the largest camp and home of the administrative headquarters for Kruger. The head office of OTS in South Africa is also in Skukuza.

While here you will be analysing and writing up your research papers and this is where you will present your results. You will also have the opportunity to visit clinics and hospitals in Nelspruit, the provincial capital of the Mpumalanga province.

In your free time you will also be able to enjoy some of the activities Kruger has to offer including plenty of time spent on early morning game drives.



Program Director: Kate Abney-Barreiro, PhD, (Univ. of Cape Town)

Dr. Kate Abney-Barreiro received her BA (Boston University, 2003) in the Cultural Anthropology department of the College of Arts and Sciences, and completed both her MSocSci (2011) and PhD (2014), in the department of Social Anthropology (University of Cape Town).

Her MA research focused on stigma, gossip, and illness transmission theories of lay populations and patients with TB and forms of DR-TB, and potential impact on health-seeking behaviours. Her PhD work focused on the experiences of paediatric inpatients being treated for TB infection in an acute long-term treatment facility. Her research interests include; health-seeking behaviours/treatment accessibility, patients’ experiences of chronic/infectious disease, childhood studies, skin-bleaching in sub-Saharan Africa, maternal and neonatal health, and livelihood strategy in rural/urban environments.

Dr. Abney-Barreiro helped to develop the inaugural OTS Global Health Programme in 2011 and participated as a course lecturer and guest lecturer up until 2014. She has taught for the International Honours Programme in South Africa, Quest University (Vancouver, BC, CAN) and the University of Illinois Champagne-Urbana (USA). In South Africa she has lectured for the University of Cape Town (Social Anthropology dept.) in the Humanities Faculty as well as the Health Sciences Faculty (AHS Physio and Rehab dept. and MBCHB programmes). 

She has featured in a Futurelearn MOOC called "Medicine and the Arts", is a former TEDx speaker, and received the Monica Wilson Award in 2013. Currently, Dr. Abney-Barreiro is travelling faculty for IHP Cities in the 21st Century programme. She has lived in South Africa for thirteen years and currently resides in Cape Town.

Tuition and Financial Aid

The course costs are detailed below:

  • Tuition for OTS South Africa summer program: $4,388
  • Program fee: $2,380

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. Applicants attending institutions that are members of the OTS consortium colleges and universities have priority, but all qualified applications will be considered. We have dedicated a substantial amount of funding to provide partial scholarships to students who need financial support. APPLY EARLY!!!

Note: Costs for the next school year will be announced in late May of each year.

Application Process

We are developing a new application and will make it available soon.

“Like” our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/OTSAbroad) to be notified when the application becomes available.

We have a rolling admissions policy, so we will review your application as soon as you complete it. This means that the program may fill BEFORE the application deadline. APPLY EARLY!

To participate in the Summer program, you must apply no later than March 1. If you are interested in a summer for which the deadline has passed, please contact us for availability at .

Accommodations & Meals

Meals are provided by our caterers, Shadreck Hlatshwayo and company who refer to themselves as AggyShadow Catering Company. The food is fantastic, regularly cited as one of the highlights of the program, and we warn you in advance about the possibility of expanding waistlines!! The menu is highly varied and usually dinners consist of a variety of choices of side dishes. The program caters for those of you with special dietary requirements (i.e. vegetarians, vegans) or food allergies but please let us know in advance so that Shadreck can prepare accordingly.

Passport & Visa Information

US Citizens will not need to apply for a South African visa for the summer sessions. You will enter the country on a tourist visa that is issued at the border control in Johannesburg-Otambo Airport. If you are not a US Citizen, please consult the South African Consulate webpage to learn about your requirements.


OTS Global Health Issues in South Africa summer program is open to all undergraduate students in good standing with their home institution who have at a least a 2.7 GPA. Students applying to the program must have completed the equivalent of one semester of college-level biology. Applicants attending institutions that are members of the OTS consortium have priority, but all qualified applications will be considered.

Health and Safety

OTS is deeply committed to student safety and well-being and does not expose students to unnecessary danger or risk. In cooperation with the Duke University Global Education Office for Undergraduates (GEO), OTS monitors 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 in Costa Rica or South Africa. For our most current safety information, contact the OTS Enrollment Management staff at .