• Healthcare

How the best public health internships build on your sustainable development work experience

Article by Tasneem Johnson-Dollie

Tasneem Johnson-Dollie

Posted: June 16, 2021

The images in this article were taken pre-COVID-19.

If you’re set on gaining all-round sustainable development work experience, the best public health internships are an ideal choice. Here’s why. 

Because the challenges faced by communities around the world are so complex, it can be tricky to fully understand what sustainable development work is about and why it matters so much.

To gain a real-life understanding of all the tasks that make up sustainable development work, you’ve got to link theoretical knowledge with hands-on experience in the field. 

Although public health is a field with a health focus, it takes developmental aspects like environmental and ecosystem health, gender equality and sustainable development into serious consideration too. 



This means that the best public health internships will expose you to every area of development highlighted by the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs)  that guide global development efforts across the world. 

And, public health internships abroad will allow you to put a global perspective to your sustainable development work experience. 

What’s more, on the best public health internships, you’ll take part in sustainable development work with all the support you need to pick up new skills and gain your confidence in the field.

But how can you be sure you’re signing up for one of the best public health internships?

What makes for the best international public health internships

The best public health internships abroad make it easy to gain the type of work experience you’re looking for while giving you the opportunity to connect with the people, culture and environments that you work in.



Gaining work experience in this way creates an abundance of opportunity for personal and professional growth. And, with the following  three important aspects included in your experience abroad, you can be sure you’re part of the best public health internships.

1) 360-degree support 

The whole idea behind an internship is that it’s a way for graduates to ease into the working world while gaining valuable work experience. So, no internship is complete without support structures that ensure that interns are guided to achieve these goals.

This is especially important on public health internships abroad where being in a new environment can add to your experience in a big way or make your day-to-day tasks really tricky – depending on how much support you receive.

All GVI’s internships in public health offer 360-degree support – support before, during and after your public health internship. 

And, taking part in a public health internship shows you’re serious about your future. You’ll get access to a remote mentor and career counselling group sessions that will boost your prospects for the future. 


2) Goal-specific experience 

Because each intern has their own personal and professional goals, sticking everyone into the same public health internship isn’t ideal. 

This is why GVI offers three types of international public health internships. You can opt to do your public health internship as a core internship, career internship, or research internship.

Each internship type offers a solid foundation of comprehensive public health work experience.

Here’s more about the different ways that you’ll gain work experience on one of our public health internship types:

  • Core internships allow you to gain a deeper insight into the field as a whole and include broad work experience in public health.
  • Career internships offer the opportunity to gain additional practical experience on the ground. You will also complete virtual projects with international partner organisations like The Red Cross. This will give you valuable industry exposure and insight into the challenges facing communities around the world and how sustainable development needs are met in different contexts.
  • Research internships are an excellent way to gain valuable professional development while also getting stuck into research-orientated activities to complete your independent or university thesis or dissertation. 

By giving you more flexibility, our public health internships make it easier to get involved in the types of hands-on activities that will help you achieve your specific career goals.


3) Add to a global impact

If you’re set on a career that builds on global well-being, then you’re probably keen to participate in a sustainable development internship that makes a meaningful impact.

Our international public health internships allow interns to travel to destinations where sustainable development work is up and running, and adding to achieving the UN SDGs is a top priority.

The goals of our public health internships abroad are set according to the needs of local people. And, your everyday tasks will include collaborating with local community members and local and international sustainable development organisations to ensure that our efforts stay relevant and effective. 

Here are some of the best public health internships you could take part in to gain sustainable development work experience. 

Sustainable development internships in Asia

Asia is home to the world’s biggest population which means that the developmental challenges experienced here relate to global challenges in a big way. 


Sustainable development work has been taking place in India for decades. But, as the country with the second-largest population on Earth, making an impact in India requires public health programs that can pack a punch – and continue to do so into the future. 

Community development interns working among the tea plantations of Kerala add to the community’s well-being. 

Tasks like facilitating educational workshops and adding to local infrastructure will make up your day-to-day activities. You’ll also be involved in engaging with the local community every day to ensure that their needs are being met. 


As an intern in Nepal, you can contribute to women’s empowerment work among Pokhara’s mountaintop communities. 



This area is encircled by the world’s tallest mountain range (the Himalayas) and the expansive Phewa Lake, but that’s not all. The village of Pokhara is also located over 800 metres above sea level. 

This means that travelling to Pokhara on a public health internship is a great way to make an impact and take in a scenic setting. You’ll be part of developing and facilitating workshops that add to the literacy, numeracy, preventative healthcare knowledge and life skills of women and girls. 


Travelling to Thailand to get involved in internships in public health means that you can work in sustainable development jobs alongside the Andaman Sea. 

Interns on our global public health program in Thailand focus on community awareness and adding to educational efforts. You’ll be part of work that builds on the community’s knowledge of hygiene and sanitation practices, nutrition and physical education. 


In Cambodia, you’ll work in the community of Siem Reap, and get to visit nearby sites such as the Angkor Wat temples and the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh.

As an intern on this public health program, you’ll get involved in multi-focus work. You’ll be involved in conducting preventative healthcare workshops to raise awareness around the importance of daily hygiene practices like handwashing. 



You could also take part in research on specific healthcare topics like access to water, medical care and the prevention of dengue fever. And, you’ll add even more to your resume by contributing towards English language lessons for local community members to up their employability in the tourism sector. 

Public health internships abroad in Africa

Africa is the continent most affected by global developmental challenges. One example of this is that climate change has increased the frequency of droughts and set the scene for the desertification of large parts of the African environment. 

This environmental impact has had a significant effect on the well-being of people, plants and animals. 

As a continent that’s home to much of the world’s plant and animal biodiversity and facing the biggest obstacles to human health, there’s tons of potential for sustainable development work to make a bigger impact in Africa. 


Alongside the coastline of the city of Accra, where the Atlantic Ocean strokes Ghana’s shore, internships in public health take a creative approach to community development. By getting involved in arts-and-crafts classes with children, interns have the opportunity to add to their education and personal growth. 

And, because the best public health internships are all about adding to the well-being of all members of society, interns also engage with the community in other ways. 

You can add to UN SDG 5: Gender Equality and UN SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth by facilitating computer classes and professional development workshops that will build on the employability and independence of local women and girls.



South Africa 

Cape Town, South Africa is where two seas meet and a flat-top mountain is the centerpiece of the city. 

It’s also where some of the world’s most biodiverse plant and animal kingdoms can be found and enjoyed in your free time.

While this city is a tourist hub in Africa, inequalities in wealth are apparent throughout the city. Informal settlements can be found all around Cape Town and many of the people living in these areas have little access to healthcare, educational and employment opportunities, proper sanitation, clean drinking water and other basic human necessities .

On a public health internship in South Africa, you’ll be part of the team that provides sports classes to local children. These sessions add to children’s knowledge about physical health and exercise. And after-school programs provide a safe and engaging space that can contribute to children’s overall well-being. 

International public health internships in Australasia 


Island settings are great for breaking away from everyday life and getting a feel for seaside living. But, they’re also destinations where the effects of climate change can have the biggest impact.

Island communities, like that of Dawasamu in Fiji, are significantly affected by rising sea levels, and climate change also puts pressure on their access to natural resources, like fresh water. 

GVI interns in Fiji can get involved in internships in public health that add to clearing the island of the land and sea pollution that has a negative impact on its natural spaces. 



Interns also get to work alongside local people and facilitate workshops on tons of different topics including:

  • health education
  • sanitation and waste management
  • sustainable agriculture
  • water conservation
  • women’s empowerment.

Each of these internships in public health offers the chance to gain experience in a wide variety of sustainable development jobs. 

And, the work done by participants contributes towards every area of sustainable development in one way or another. 

Virtual internships in public health

While on-the-ground internships are as valuable as ever, the world has shifted to make room for virtual public health internship opportunities too. 

Virtual internships in public health make gaining important workplace skills a possibility even in times of travel restrictions. 

And, most sustainable development employers have had to up their online game in the current global climate. 

This means that all the structures that make for the best public health internships are up and running and allowing passionate people to make a real-life impact from a virtual platform. 

So, if you’re not yet able or willing to travel, you can set your sights on virtual sustainable development internships. These opportunities will allow you to work alongside international organisations and interact with the challenges facing community members without leaving your home office. 



There are so many ways to gain experience in sustainable development through public health internships abroad or virtual opportunities. And every option will give you the skills and understanding you need to enter into a whole host of sustainable development jobs in the future. 

Take a look at our website to find out more about the best public health internships that you can do virtually or abroad and get started on your sustainable development journey.

By Tasneem Johnson-Dollie

Tasneem Johnson-Dollie is a travel writer living in South Africa. She has experience in public health nutrition and worked as a dietician before launching her writing career. She loves bringing her passion for public health and sustainable development to every article she writes. Her travels around South Africa as well as to India, Australia, and Saudi Arabia have fueled her passion for exploration.
what’s up next?
Nine of the best volunteer programs in South Africa

Looking for a volunteer experience that offers adventure and the chance to make a meaningful contribution? Explore nine of the best volunteer programs in South Africa.

You might also like these articles

Gap year pros and cons
Read the article
Women's Empowerment
Discover Different Types of Volunteering
Read the article
Women's Empowerment
How to Prepare for Your First Volunteer Experience: A Guide for First-Time Volunteers
Read the article
Women's Empowerment
How to Improve Your Skills and Knowledge While Volunteering
Read the article
Women's Empowerment
Exploring the Enchanting Cambodian Countryside
Read the article
Women's Empowerment
Advance Your Career in Public Health with an Internship
Read the article
Public health
7 things to do in a gap year
Read the article
Women's Empowerment
Responsible volunteering with animals abroad
Read the article
Women's Empowerment
How to volunteer in Latin America
Read the article
Women's Empowerment