Madagascar: Traditional Medicine and Healthcare Systems

Examine how historical circumstances, geography, and demographics shape and inform the delivery of traditional healthcare

offered by SIT Study Abroad

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Please visit our website for more information. Communities in Madagascar, the world's fourth-largest island, have a vibrant engagement with plant-based medicine and, today, traditional medicine remains widely practiced throughout the country. Based in the capital city of Antananarivo, students explore healthcare in both urban and rural areas to discover how cultural, economic, and political dimensions and physical geographies provide the necessary context for understanding varied Malagasy approaches to healthcare.  Through lectures, educational excursions, and deep cultural interaction, students examine topics including: Malagasy cultural assumptions and practices  Ethical issues in healthcare delivery  Post-colonial history and contemporary Malagasy politics as applied to healthcare policy and delivery Antananarivo and Beyond Commonly referred to as "Tana," Madagascar's capital is a sprawling, labyrinthine city of more than three million people, although at times it can feel much smaller. The city boasts an interesting mix of nineteenth century Malagasy and more recent European influences, evident in the city's layout, architecture, economy, attitude, and atmosphere. Madagascar's capital is a beautiful city built on hills, with distinct neighborhoods, bustling open-air markets, intriguing paths, and seemingly endless staircases that wind their way among the hills. The program also includes time in provincial areas, allowing students to view the varied facets of Malagasy society and culture through multiple lenses. In the rural town of Andasibe, a 150 km drive from Tana, students engage with local residents, including traditional healers and allopathic medical doctors, at rural public hospitals in non-clinical settings. In Andasibe students learn more about ethnobotany, home and folk remedies, and the extent to which health beliefs are grounded in traditional religion. Heterogeneous Communities and Natural Environment The present-day Malagasy people are extremely heterogeneous due to their diverse roots: their ancestors arrived on the island from various parts of Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. Today, the Malagasy have been categorized into 18 official ethnic groups, but many distinctions between various groups remain unclear or subject to debate.  Madagascar is also well known for its exceptional ecological diversity: the island is home to extraordinary flora and fauna much of which is unique to this country and plays a distinctive role in traditional healthcare practices.   Use French and Learn Malagasy All students will receive intensive instruction in Malagasy, and students with a background in French will have many opportunities to apply their French language skills while in Tana. (Note: There is no language prerequisite for the program.) 


  • French
  • Public Health
  • Health Administration
  • Health Sciences
  • Sociology
  • Anthropology


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