Public Health in Cuba

Girl in Cuba standing in front of a window with a bright orange wall around her

About This Program

  • Location: Havana, Cuba - Universidad de las Artes
  • Term: Summer Quarter
  • Language of Instruction: Spanish; Students must meet the Weinberg foreign language requirement in Spanish, or equivalent, to be eligible for this program
  • Eligibility: Open to NU and non-NU students meeting the Spanish language requirement and NU's minimum application requirements

Summer 2015

  • Application deadline: March 1
  • IPD fellowship application deadline: March 1
  • Program dates: Saturday, June 20 (date of arrival in Miami) - Sunday, August 16 (date of departure from Havana)

Summer 2015: $10,300

Total fees charged by Northwestern: $7,800, includes: 

  • $5,375 tuition fee covers courses and excursions
  • $1,800 housing fee covers lodging in a local guesthouse, accommodations during excursions, breakfast daily, and four lunches or dinners per week
  • $550 round trip airfare from Miami to Havana
  • $75 for HTH Worldwide Health Insurance
  • $0 Study Abroad Administrative Fee

Estimated additional costs: $2,500, includes:

  • $500 round trip airfare to Miami (students book their own airfare; rates vary)
  • $200 for books and supplies
  • $1,800 for discretionary expenses, including meals, personal travel/transportation, etc.

Students applying to this program are eligible for IPD study abroad scholarships and may be eligible for external funding opportunities


The Public Health in Cuba program offers students a unique look into Cuba’s healthcare system and politics during an important phase in the socioeconomic evolution of the island. Public health courses examine Cuba’s system of socialized medicine, tropical infectious disease, HIV/AIDS, and medical sociology. Through lectures and visits to sites in Havana and surrounding areas, students also learn about Cuban history, literature, and cinema and gain exposure to a unique culture that has influenced arts and the humanities around the world.

All courses are taught in Spanish, and students must demonstrate two years of Spanish at the university level (or equivalent) to be eligible for the program.

Host institution: Established in 1976, the Instituto Superior de Arte (ISA) provides education and training to approximately 800 students in 39 specialties of visual and performing arts. Many of Cuba’s most famous artists and musicians have studied in one of ISA’s five “Facultades,” or Schools of Music, Visual Arts, Performing Arts, Dance, and Arts and Audiovisual Communication Media. ISA also facilitates international exchanges with more than 30 universities in Latin America, Europe, and the United States.

Housing & meals: Students will stay in Casa Lilly, a casa particular located within walking distance of Casa de las Américas, the Malecón, and the Universidad de la Habana. Students will stay in double or triple rooms, equipped with air conditioning, secure lockers, and private bathrooms. Breakfast and some group meals are included.


This is a Northwestern program with a set curriculum, so students must enroll in the Northwestern courses listed below. All courses and grades appear on students' Northwestern transcript and are figured into their Northwestern GPA.

SPANISH 215-SA: Introduction to Cuban Culture & Society

This course introduces students to major issues in Cuban society through an examination of recent issues and debates and through the study of recent Cuban cultural production (music, architecture, visual arts).

GBL HLTH 330-SA: Public Health in Cuba

  • 1 credit
  • Course Instructor: Aida Cisneros

Cuba has the economy of a poor country but its population has a health profile similar to those of the richest nations. Policy experts worldwide consider this paradox to be a great source of important lessons. This seminar explores the development of public health policies in Cuba since 1960 and their impact on health outcomes in an effort to identify some of these lessons.

GBL HLTH 331-SA: Health and Healing in Contemporary Cuba

This course will approach human encounters with disease and wellness in contemporary Cuba from the point of view of medical anthropology. It will be based on the notion that understanding how Cuba achieves its impressive public heath indicators requires the study of both policies from above and practices from below. Through seminar classes and interaction with practitioners, patients, and scholars in a variety of settings, students will examine how society and culture influence health and disease in contemporary Cuba.

And one of the following courses

  • SPANISH 395-SA: Special Topics in the Literatures of Latin America and/or Spain: Cuban Literature Since 1960 (1 credit, Course Instructor: Margarita Mateo): This seminar will provide an overview of Cuban literature since 1960. The course will explore how Cubans have experienced the complexity of political and economic systems in daily life since 1960 and how this has influenced literary production.
  • SPANISH 380-SA: Topics in Film: The Silver Screen in Latin America and/or Spain: Cuban Cinema Since 1960 (1 credit, Course Instructor: Joel del Rio): This course provides an introduction to Cuban cinema since the early years of the revolution. Students will analyze and compare how issues of gender, race, and class have been presented in classic and more recent films.


Students will have the opportunity to participate in several guided excursions to famous sites in and around the city of Havana. Possible excursions include trips to Old Havana, Parque Lenín, Maqueta de la Habana, and the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de la Habana, among others. Students will also take a weekend trip to Viñales Valley in Piñar del Río Province, and an extended excursion trip to Trinidad, Camagüey, and the surrounding provinces.