Decolonising Global Health: understand, reflect, improve
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School of Public Health, University of Siena, Italy
University of Padova, Italy
University of Roma La Sapienza, Italy
University of Bologna, Italy
Publication date: 2023-04-26
Popul. Med. 2023;5(Supplement):A1831
In recent years, the question of decolonisation has progressively become more and more central, involving various sectors, including Public and Global Health. After the global protests over the death of the Afro-descendant George Floyd in America, decolonising and anti-supremacist instances also reached the major European Global Health institutes thanks to the mobilisation of students. The students movement started a debate on the link between Global Health and colonialism and the need for the Global North to confront their colonial heritage. The result has been an intense production of papers, whose authors include Dr. Seye Abimbola, chief of BMJ Global Health: the need to become aware of the roots on which the discipline of Global Health is based is highlighted, with reflections on approaches, metrics and relationships that underlie a legacy of domination. Tropical Medicine, as the ancestor of Global Health, was born in the period of Western colonialism and was often subjected to opportunistic logics to justify the expropriation of resources and property by leveraging biological differences between colonised and coloniser. But that is not all: reflections of this colonial legacy can still be found in Global Health institutions and academies today, for example in the almost absent representation of minorities in decision-making positions, the limited access of students and lecturers from the Global South to the most prestigious schools of Global Health in the Global North, the poor representation of local authors in the research, and the difficult access for local colleagues to impact journals. This is not just about diversity and inclusion and it does not have to turn into "whitewashing": the debate also focuses on the need for a paradigm shift in how Global Health is understood, operated and taught. Starting from a collective reflection on the violations of the past and the power dynamics that are still current, there is a need to rebuild a community of Global Health researchers and practitioners based on the understanding that there is no health without social justice. While the debate is enriching at a global level, involving various actors (academies, NGOs, activists), in Italy the topic still remains largely neglected, including in the field of health, where resistance and hesitancy coexist, despite is well recognised that inequalities and power imbalance are determinants that can negatively impact the health outcomes of populations. As the Junior Working Group on Health Inequalities of the Italian Society of Hygiene, we believe that the World Congress on Public Health is a great opportunity to promote and facilitate a workshop with experts on decolonisation of the Global Health, to better understand the topic, to create space for reflection and to look forward to future perspectives.
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