Course Syllabus

Course Name: Public Health Applications in Developing Countries
Course Directors: Dr. Lois Grau and Dr. Bernadette West
Office: Rutgers School of Public Health
Course Credit: 3
Pre-requisites: Permission of the instructors and faculty advisor

Course Description and Purpose

This course is designed to introduce students to basic issues confronting the public health of marginalized populations in developing countries. It addresses the socio-economic and political factors and conditions that place populations at risk for poor health. Although the general principles discussed and observed during the course apply to dislocated populations, such as refugees and illegal migrant workers, in general, specific focus will be on Haitian communities of sugar cane workers living in the Dominican Republic.

The course consists of three phases. The first planning phase requires students to complete required readings and plan for the implementation of public health interventions during the one-week field component of the course in the Dominican Republic. Students are required to develop the materials and obtain the resources (from contributions) necessary for project completion. Discussion of the reading materials and planning will be undertaken during three to four student meetings during the first part of the semester. Students will maintain on-going contact via e-mail to facilitate donation collection and other planning efforts.

The second phase is a "hands on" field experience in the Dominican Republic during which time students will work in a number of Haitian "bateyes", (former sugar cane worker camps) and with Haitian and Dominicans living in extremely poor barrios. Students participate in a range of programs such as "de-worming" clinics, health education programs, food distribution efforts and the provision of basic primary care and referral for specialty care. In addition, the project works with a Haitian gentleman, "Blanco" who devotes his life to destitute children and adults. As a result of Blanco's efforts, the project has identified 30 children, known as Blanco's Kids", who are orphaned or live with mothers with no source of income or subsistence. As a result of contributions and fundraisers we have been able to enroll these children in school, offer them basic health care, and maintain a limited but vital feeding program. Currently, we are building a "safe house," known as "Blanco's Place" to house the youngest children and women who care for them.  Students participate in a beach party for the children during which time they receive a health assessment and participate in health education and other games and crafts.

Students will be housed in Costambar, a community just to the west of Puerto Plata on the North Coast of the Dominican Republic. Daily excursions will be made to bateyes and barrios in the Puerto Plata and Imbert areas. Other experiences will include a visit to the public hospital and rehabilitation center. Generally, students are in the field for five to six days and have one day to visit local tourist beaches.

The third phase of the project is the completion of a research paper or project relevant to students' public health concentration. The paper/project is due at the end of the semester. Students are encouraged to select their topic prior to the field trip and to collect information, or at least insights relevant to their project during the field experience. Additional library or other necessary research will be conducted following return from the Dominican Republic. The course grade will be based on level of participation in the planning and fieldwork component of the course and faculty evaluation of student research papers or projects.

Learning Objectives
  • To identify linkages between economic, social and political conditions and analyze their impact on the health and health risks of marginalized populations.
  • To experience first hand the barriers and opportunities associated with implementing grass roots public health projects without access to a public health or personal health care system.
  • To identify and analyze the various steps involved in developing community empowerment and the role of public health in and during this process.
  • To research and analyze a public health problem and/or strategies specific to the student's academic interests.
Student Considerations

Students should be aware that the bateyes and communities we work in are extremely poor, lacking running water or sanitary facilities. It is expected that students will read all required materials prior to the trip as well as view the documentary of our students at work made by Hazel Gurland.  Students are required to heed the guidelines for dress, sanitation, etc. that will be provided. They must also provide documentation of international health insurance that includes repatriation prior to departure.

Required Readings: Books
  • Wucker, Michele. Why the Cocks Fight: Dominicans, Haitians and the Struggle for Hispaniola. New York: Hill and Want, 1999.
  • Lemoine, Maurice. Bitter Sugar: Slaves Today in the Caribbean. Chicago: Banner Press, 1985.
  • Kidder, Tracy. Mountains Beyond Mountains, Random House, 2003.
Required Viewing: Video
Recommended Readings: Reports
Press Articles, Magazines, and Journals