Decolonizing Global Health: A Moment To Reflect On A Movement
There is a lot that is wrong with how global health is designed, structured, taught, and practiced. If this was not clear before the pandemic, the ongoing Covid-19 vaccine inequity (vaccine apartheid) offers abundant proof that global health, as a field, does not walk the talk on buzzwords such as global solidarity or social inequities. Whether it is vaccines, grant funding or journal authorship, it is all about the power and privilege high-income countries (HIC) have and maintain, and what they may be willing to part with, as charity.
The past two or three years have seen a flood of conferences, webinars, talks, op-eds, and articles on the need to decolonize global health (DGH). Similar calls are also being made to decolonize humanitarian aid. A number of schools in HICs have held events on DGH, mostly led by students. In parallel, inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and the growing calls for women to lead in global health, global health organizations and institutions have made pledges to address diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).
In some ways, DGH is a welcome development, because it shows some awareness about lack of diversity in global health organizations, the power asymmetry that is all pervasive in global health, and the many contradictions within global health. The DGH movement has helped highlight the marginalization of women, Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC), and people from the Global South in all areas of global health. At a minimum, it has allowed global health students in HICs, who often pay huge sums of money for their training, to demand that their universities offer them a curriculum that is deeper, critical, and grounded in historical, anti-colonial, and political perspectives.