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Religion, Public Health, and Development

In 2010, IHP staff and colleagues at the Rollins School of Public Health received seed grant funding from the Institute for Developing Nations to develop strategic Lea Totocollaborations between Emory University and colleagues at Saint Paul’s University in Kenya. After a year of planning and site visits between the two schools, Emory and St. Paul’s faculty joined together to create a certificate course in Religion, Public Health and Development. This course was offered from May-July 2011 for the first time to 28 students from St. Paul’s and Emory in undergraduate and graduate programs in theology, development studies, public health, economics, and sociology. The certificate course was created to address the following learning objectives: 

By the completion of this certificate course, participants will be able to:

  • Describe the complexity of religion and its influence on health and development practice
  • Identify and apply links between religion, public health, and development
  • Assess religion’s function in relation to public health and development initiatives:
  • When is it an asset? When is it in tension?
  • Evaluate the adequacy of theoretical content from the course through case studies and fieldwork
  • Develop or refine course content in collaboration with course faculty

NyumbaniThe course combined classroom seminars with field-based learning. In the seminars, students were given theoretical frameworks to understand the intersections between religion, public health and development and then employ those frameworks to analyze complex case studies. In eight-week field placements, students gained real-world experience in programs operating at the intersection of religion, public health, and development and came to understand through hands-on experience the ways in which religious belief and practice impact public health and development initiatives in Kenya. The Emory students are enrolled at the Candler School of Theology, Emory College, and the Rollins School of Public Health. During their field placements, they worked in a program called Nyumbani, a model program that provides comprehensive clinical and psychosocial services to children living with HIV/AIDS and/or orphaned by HIV/AIDS. Three students worked in Lea Toto, a Nyumbani program that provides HIV primary care to over 3,500 children living in a series of informal settlements in Nairobi. Two worked in Nyumbani Village, an innovative program that provides a permanent home and a vast array of educational, medical, and psychosocial services for over 750 children orphaned by HIV/AIDS and over 100 adults who lost their adult children to HIV/AIDS. The village, located near Kutui (a rural area of Kenya about 120 miles outside of Nairobi), is also a model for sustainable development in organic farming and forestry. 

Emmy Corey, a theology student at Candler, and Andrea Fletcher, a public health student at Rollins, maintained blogs of their experiences in the course and field placement that provides further insight into the importance of the connections between religion, public health, and development.  This year, we have 7 students working in field placements in Nyumbani who are continuing to build upon the great work that was begun last year.