McMaster University

Interdisciplinary Global Health Field Course:
Maternal and Infant Health in Morocco

Scope of Search


The Interdisciplinary Global Health Field Course:  Maternal and Infant Health in Morocco is a rigorous, interdisciplinary academic program that introduces students to the fundamentals of public health, global health, Arabic, Moroccan history, Islamic theology, and medical anthropology.  It is 6 credits, or two three-unit courses:

The course is a culturally-informed approach to global health, introducing students to the methodologies and principles of public health, qualitative method from anthropology and history, and bench science (water).

Interdisciplinary Global Health Field Course: Maternal and Infant Health in Morocco

(History/Anthropology/Religious Studies 3GH3, or BHSC credits)

This global health course is designed to provide undergraduate students with an integrated linguistic, cultural, and public health experience in the Islamic North African country of Morocco. The course introduces students to the range of social, religious, epidemiological, economic, technological, legal, historical, and family issues that impact birth, pregnancy, motherhood, and the health of newborns and children in Morocco (determinants of health). Students also gain knowledge of Islamic theology and practice, medical anthropology, and the complex integration of biomedicine to non-Western healing systems.

There is an intensive 4-day introduction to public health and global health before departure to Morocco, 6 hours/day, May 3-6.

In Morocco, there is a three-week urban component and a one-week field experience. 

In the Morocco urban component (3 weeks) directors of national programs in public health, Islamic and feminist NGOS, university professors, and law advocacy groups guide us through the factors, organizations, and policies that affect women and children. We learn:

Epidemiology, concepts of disease, health policy--Tuberculosis and HIV morbidity, the national policies for their prevention in Morocco, from the National School of Public Health in Rabat.

Gender and law as determinants of health--women’s legal and economic status and the family law, the complex of factors that influence women’s opportunities and inform policies on marital rape, child abandonment, unwed motherhood, and social views of sex and sexuality. The director of “MRA,” a women’s NGO, describes how women educate and advocate for women’s legal rights.

AIDS prevention and the work of the AIDS NGO “Association de Lutte Contre le SIDA.” The oldest AIDS NGO in the Middle East/North Africa region, ALCS advocates for HIV infected persons, studies AIDS prevalence, and trains prostitutes, MSM, and asylum-seekers as AIDS peer educators.

Geopolitics and Health--Sub-Saharan African immigration and refugees to Morocco, and how the search for political and economic asylum has health consequences for women, men, and children.

Environment as a determinant of health; ONEP, the largest water-treatment plant and research center in Africa, guides national water policy and studies water scarcity and climate change in Africa.

Health determinants of the built environment with site visits and lectures to ancient Islamic cities (Fez) and industrial shantytowns.

Students will learn Moroccan colloquial Arabic and live with Moroccan families in home stays.

In the one-week fieldwork experience, students live with local families and focus on community health and the environmental determinants of health (clean water, food, preparation, sanitation, access to health care and facilities) in the remote village cluster of Zawiya Ahansal in the High Atlas Mountains. Two hours from the nearest hospital (by land rover) and supplied only with primary school education by the state, the 15,000 people of Zawiya Ahansal have created a local NGO and cooperate for sustainable development projects.

Students conduct oral qualitative interviews through translators to write a Community Health Needs Assessment, conduct water testing, keep a fieldwork journal, volunteer to tutor local schoolchildren in English (1 day), study local sustainable development projects, and help to design an intergenerational Community Health Day.

Program instruction is classroom lectures, readings, written exams, discussion, site visits, experiential learning, fieldwork, an anthropological field journal, participant observation, and a final individual research paper, created with the guidance of the instructor.

Colloquial Moroccan Arabic

(Arabic 3GH3)

Students will receive 3 weeks, 3 hours/day of intensive language training in spoken Moroccan Arabic through transliteration and communicative method.  Students will be able to ask essential questions and understand responses, express basic facts and opinions in simple sentences, and engage in basic conversations in Moroccan Arabic with native speakers in the past, present, and future tenses.  No previous Arabic knowledge is necessary.   

Students will receive Arabic instruction at AMIDEAST, the oldest US NGO in the Middle East, created in 1951.  AMIDEAST also provides Arabic instruction for the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Fulbright Scholars program, and hosts study abroad programs for many U.S. universities.

For detailed information about speakers, site visits, bibliography, student research projects, our photo gallery, and to read the student blog, please visit the dedicated course website:

Maternal and Infant Health website

  • Syllabus
  • Itinerary
  • McMaster Study Abroad
  • How to register for McMaster credits


For the 2016 syllabus, click on the tab below.


For the 2016 itinerary, click on the tab below.

McMaster Study Abroad

Please check back soon for more information.

How to register for McMaster credits

Deadline:  April 15, 2016

  • Step 1:  At the First Orientation (March 7 or March 9), fill out the form telling us how you want to register for credits.  Note in your folder for yourself how you asked to be registered. 
  • Step 2:  Pay the Morocco program fee ($6450) no later than March 22.  Note that Morocco program fee is NOT paid to the registrar, you must pay Dr. Amster by Cheque or Heidi von Boedegon by wire transfer or credit card.  See yellow handout for details.
  • Step 3:  Your course code preferences will be entered as “permissions” under your name into the MOSAIC system, so you will be cleared to register.  Please note that you cannot register without permission, you cannot drop without permission, and you cannot come on the Morocco program without being registered for course credits.
  • Step 4:  By April 6, 2016, you will be notified by email that permissions are entered for you for the course codes you requested.
  • Step 5:  Register for the 6 credits of tuition with the McMaster University registrar.  Pay tuition by the usual methods with the registrar.  Provide proof of registration for McMaster credits and payment by April 15, 2016.
  • Information for paying Tuition fees only to McMaster University Registrar:
  • //