Social Medicine Course

Social Medicine Course

9-30 July, 2023

Course Overview
The Palestine program for Health and Human Rights—a partnership between the François-Xavier Bagnoud for Health and Human Rights and the Institute of Community and Public Health at Birzeit university—will be hosting its 1st annual Palestine Social Medicine Course.  This three-week intensive summer course is designed to introduce students to the social, structural, political, and historical aspects that determine Palestinian health ‘beyond the biological basis of disease.’

Social and political determinants of health are widely recognized as having a disproportionate impact on individual health and wellbeing. In the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), communities struggle with confronting the social and political determinants of health that overwhelm the capacities of a traditional biomedical approach of addressing ill health. When the barriers to care are sociopolitical, improving health requires more than well-meaning health professionals and adequate care facilities. Yet despite the importance of these structural determinants of health, the historical, political, and structural factors are not commonly discussed in health sciences curricula and thus become elusive in the biological and clinical training typically received by health professional students. 

To supplement existing coursework, the social medicine framework offers a progressive approach to educating on the social and structural determinants of health. Successful annual social medicine courses in Uganda, Haiti, and the United States have been undertaken for years, training hundreds of health professional students from these countries and elsewhere to both understand and respond to the social determinants of health. The training in these courses explore social determinants through self-reflection and self-awareness, the building of collaborative partnerships, and praxis. Such an approach is transformational for the Palestinian context in order to fully explore the political, historical, and geographic fragmentation of Palestinians as related to their health, while also building a growing cadre of graduates and future leaders with the knowledge and tools to achieve health equity in Palestine and beyond. 

Course Objectives
The objectives of the Palestine Social Medicine Course are the following:
1.    Educate Palestinian and Harvard health professional students on the social determinants of health in Palestine in general, particularly with regard to practical, real-life examples of barriers to care and their potential or actual alleviation.
2.    Integrate lectures and field visits into a comprehensive and dynamic learning experience
3.    Develop student appreciation for the need to be historically deep and geographically broad in their approach to understanding the complexities of health inequity.
4.    Introduce key published lessons from established social medicine courses, including the need to:
-    Build equitable partnerships
-    Embrace discomfort
-    Link reflection with action through praxis
-    Build intentional community
5.    Build a growing network of structurally competent health professionals to address and champion structural health issues via local, national, and global advocacy.

The course will be based at the Institute of Community and Public Health at Birzeit University, West Bank, occupied Palestinian territory.  A variety of experiential field visits will take students to locations throughout the West Bank and Israel (pending permit availability).

Course Structure
The primary site of instruction will be at the Institute of Community and Public Health at Birzeit University.  Course pedagogy will include field visits, group discussion, presentations, and personal reflection to foster a transformative learning environment. Guest speakers will include a wide range of health and social actors including health practitioners, community organizers, activists, academics, and representatives from civil society organizations.

Curriculum Content
Curriculum topics will build learner’s core understandings of social medicine, social determinants of health, health activism, and the historical, social, and political context of Palestine.  Core topics include:
-    Self-awareness and structural humility
-    What is social medicine and what is structural competency? 
-    Social medicine/structural competency approaches to clinical encounters
-    A social sciences approach to disease in Palestine
-    The human rights framework and the right to health in Palestine
-    Health and health culture in Palestine
-    Settler colonialism and its manifestations in Palestine
-    Health and racism
-    Case studies in Palestinian health
-    Health systems financing
-    Barriers to care in the oPt/Israel/diaspora and means of alleviating access 

Core Faculty
-    Yara Asi, PhD. FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, Harvard University and Assistant Professor at the University of Central Florida
-    David Mills, MD. FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, Harvard University and Instructor in Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School
-    Bram Wispelwey, MS MD MPH. FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, Harvard University and Instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School
-    Osama Tannous, MD. FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, Harvard University
-    Weeam Hammoudeh, PhD. FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, Harvard University and Assistant Professor at the Institute of Community and Public Health, Birzeit University

There will be space for a total of 20 students—10 Harvard-based students and 10 Palestinian students from the Gaza Strip, West Bank, and Green Line. Priority will be given to students in the Medical, Public Health, Nursing, and Social Sciences.  

The course will be taught in English. English proficiency will be required.

Participants will share double occupancy rooms in a hotel near Birzeit University.  Breakfast will be offered at all hotel locations. Lunch will also be provided and will be covered by the program for the majority of days. Though some dinners will be covered by the program, students will be required to make their own dinner arrangements for the majority of their stay. 
The course will be at no cost for Palestinian students, who are accepted, and will cover the following:
-    In-country transport and accommodation
-    Coffee, Lunch, and some dinners
-    Field visits
-    Course fees
-    All program activities, included scheduled cultural activities
-    COVID tests

There are a number of expenses that are not covered by the program fee that students are responsible to cover on their own. These expenses include:
-    Ground transportation for personal purposes
-    Personal expenditures, communication, course materials, and incidentals

Application deadline is March 10 2023

To register please use the following link

For questions regarding the social medicine course, please reach out to: