Botswana Global Health Initiative

Developing sustainable solutions to the health challenges facing families and communities in Botswana and globally.

The Botswana Global Health Initiative (BGHI) serves as a platform for supporting teaching, research and outreach in global health and for developing sustainable solutions to the health challenges facing families and communities in Botswana and globally.

Building upon the commitment of Oregon State University and the College of Public Health and Human Sciences to transformational excellence and impact through exceptional research, discovery, innovation and engagement, the BGHI focuses on advancing the lifelong wellness of people and communities in Oregon and throughout the world.

The Botswana Global Health Initiative actively engages in exploring, developing and sharing concrete solutions that communities, government organizations and civil society groups can use in addressing practical problems facing needy populations in Botswana and globally.

Summer 2022 newsletters from the field

Issue 01 - June 29

  • What we've been up to lately
  • A little more about Botswana
  • Meet Our Team!

  Download issue 1

Issue 02 - July 8

  • An update from one of our teammates
  • Meet our program coordinators!
  • A closer look at the projects our students are working on

  Download issue 2

Issue 03 - July 18

  • More About Our Program
  • An Update from Jess Fujinaga
  • A Brief History of Botswana & Maunatlala Village
  • Project Spotlight: Mainstreaming Disability

  Download issue 3

Issue 04 - July 25

  • An Update from Kevin Luyamba
  • Wildlife of Botswana
  • How We Spend Our Free Time
  • Project spotlight: Positive Youth Development

  Download issue 4

Issue 05 - August 3

  • An Update from Isabel Griffin
  • Our final days in Maunatlala
  • Traditional Botswana Cuisine
  • Project spotlight: Sexual Reproductive Health & Gender-based Violence

  Download issue 5

Core initiative activities

The core activities of the Botswana Global Health Initiative include engaging in Sustainable Community Partnership and Empowerment (SCOPE) to equitably involve all stakeholders in the research and engagement process, with all partners in the process contributing expertise and sharing in the decision-making and ownership of a project. SCOPE increases knowledge and understanding of community issues to plan interventions more effectively with greater buy-in.

Within the SCOPE-informed construct of research and engagement, the BGHI is currently engaged in the following activities:


Offering Internship opportunities to undergraduate and graduate students from diverse disciplinary backgrounds to work in rural communities in Botswana.


Facilitating and supporting community-based research by faculty and doctoral students working in Botswana on health-related issues.


Engaging and empowering the local communities in a culturally appropriate and locally relevant manner.


Botswana Global Health Internship Program

The Botswana Global Health Internship Program offers students an opportunity to work as part of a team of interns and professors on projects related to understanding local cultural practices and beliefs, the impact of infrastructure on everyday life and health, education and health infrastructure and services, community food and nutrition, in-clinic and outreach services provided by the local community clinic and health outposts, and related topics.

More information about the internship program and its activities is available at Botswana Global Health Internship Program.

Research and engagement / outreach

The Botswana Global Health Initiative includes several community-based projects in Maunatlala – a rural village and surrounding villages located in the central region of Botswana. These projects represent the research interest and activities of faculty and graduate students and provide opportunities for student interns to learn how to work in a cross-cultural, community-based setting.

These projects have the support of local communities, the Ministry of Health and Wellness, and the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development. Both government ministries provide expert advice and logistical support for our work and assist in the broader dissemination of programming and sustainability.


Using school-based and home-based education to promote sexual and reproductive health

With a population of 2.3 million, Botswana has the fourth-highest HIV prevalence (20.3%) in the world, despite the provision of universal free ART to people living with HIV. Rural youth (10-17 age group) have limited opportunities to learn about sexual and reproductive health issues, which makes them vulnerable to contracting a sexually transmitted infection, unintended pregnancies, contracting HIV, and experiencing gender-based violence. In 2018 and 2019, we worked with a diverse group of stakeholders, including youth groups, schoolteachers, clinic staff, and students to develop a comprehensive sexual and reproductive education program for students in the local Junior High School and their parents. We plan to pilot this program beginning in summer 2022.


Inclusive social club/mainstreaming disability

Individuals with disabilities are largely underrepresented and underserved in rural communities in Botswana. There are limited opportunities available for individuals with disabilities to receive proper education, quality health care or positive social interaction. Building on the needs assessment that was carried out by Botswana program interns in 2018, we evaluated the level of services offered to individuals with disabilities in the Masupe Primary School’s Special Education program and the Maunatlala Clinic. We also conducted in-depth interviews and focus group discussions to learn about the perceptions and attitudes of community members towards disability. We engaged diverse stakeholders to develop a comprehensive plan to effectively address the needs of people with disabilities.

This program provides afterschool activities for children led by community youth leaders and promotes healthy relationship building, self-efficacy, self-image and inclusion of children with disabilities. Older youth leaders serve as mentors. The program helps children cultivate essential life skills and develop positive social and emotional skills. We plan to also provide family learning opportunities. The program instills in youth the values, ideas and practices of leadership, community service, self-efficacy and inclusion.


Brighter Kids Program

This afterschool program creates a safe, friendly learning environment for children 5-12 years old. Program activities include structured and unstructured reading and learning, arts and crafts, computer skills, structured physical activities, excursions and game nights. The program uses games and toys to help children sharpen their learning skills, promote critical thinking, and develop intellectually, physically and emotionally.


Alcohol-Free Village

Several community members, youth leaders and community leaders identified alcohol/substance abuse as a serious social problem in Maunatlala. As the pastime usage of alcohol has risen, along with the popularity of local bars, many social problems have arisen concurrently including theft, violence and negative health behaviors generally attributable to drinking. Youth have been identified specifically as heavy users of alcohol, largely due to both high rates of unemployment and limited social outlets within the community. To address this issue, we carried out a community needs assessment to better understand the current situation and develop a more comprehensive intervention plan to address this social problem. We are currently developing an innovative community-based and community-supported alcohol abuse prevention program. The program will be pilot tested in summer 2022.


Preventing gender-based violence/intimate partner violence

Nearly 67% of women in Botswana have experienced some form of gender-based violence (GBV) in their lifetime. These include both partner and non-partner violence. Nearly 44% of men in Botswana admit to perpetrating violence against women. There are limited formal mechanisms available to women for reporting instances of GBV or intimate partner violence.

With support from community leaders and government-appointed social workers in Maunatlala, we plan to conduct a household survey and target focus group discussions to better understand the problem of gender-based violence in the community and develop community-led GBV prevention programs.

Botswana Global Health Program team

Current projects


Faculty Lead

Sunil Khanna
Megan MacDonald

Student Participants

Divya Reddy, Courtney Jost, Mikala Kowal, Ivan Estrada

SRH Education

Faculty Lead

Sunil Khanna

Student Participants

Divya Reddy

Mainstreaming Disability

Faculty Lead

Megan MacDonald
Sunil Khanna

Student Participants

Courtney Jost

Brighter Kids Program

Faculty Lead

Sunil Khanna
Megan MacDonald

Student Participants

Courtney Jost

Alcohol-Free Village

Faculty Lead

Sunil Khanna

Student Participants

Ivan Estrada

Preventing GBV

Faculty Lead

Sunil Khanna

Student Participants

Mikala Kowal

Annual reports of the Botswana Global Health Program


Botswana Program activities impacting student success at OSU

Beavs on Break: Helping in Botswana

Honors College student, Grace Petrina, conducted community research in Botswana as part of the Botswana Global Health Initiative (BGHI). During her internship, she engaged with the local community and gained hands on experience that solidified her passion for helping others.

Botswana Internship Program

If you're an undergraduate or graduate student studying public health, agriculture, forestry, pharmacy, veterinary medicine, engineering or social sciences, and have a passion for community-based work, you're a great fit for the Oregon State Botswana Global Learning Internship Program.

Finding Victoria

After traveling to Botswana to conduct public health fieldwork, Victoria Adams changed her major, joined a sorority, and gained an immeasurable amount of confidence. Experiential learning challenges and inspires OSU students to tackle problems facing our state and the world. Generous donors make many of these experiences possible.

Innovations in Menstrual Health

Innovations in Materials Science for a Transformative Menstrual Health and Hygiene Product

Lessons from reciprocal community engagement in Botswana.

This presentation explores the processes of engaging communities throughout the research process – from conceptualization of the problem/issues to implementation and evaluation. Sunil Khanna shares lessons that he has learned while conducting long-term community participatory research in a rural community in Botswana since 2017.

Botswana Global Health Program timeline