The concept and discussion on OUR post-colonial relations are important for population health outcomes and deserve our attention. Here are my thoughts. What are yours?
During the AFREhealth conference held in Harare, Zimbabwe last August 2022 there were some presentations on the topic of decolonization of global health which were followed by vigorous discussions. I have since taken more interest in this subject and have been surprised to find that the subject of globalization is huge with many websites addressing diverse aspects of the subject including a group focusing on decolonizing contraception!
There are a number of highly regarded schools of public health and other institutions that are introducing new programs for students under Schools of Decolonizing Global Health and awarding Masters of Public Health degrees in Decolonizing Global Health.
So, what is decolonization with respect to global health? Decolonization of global health is variously defined as a movement that fights against entrenched systems of dominance and power imbalance in the work to improve the health of populations. This power imbalance may take place between countries, and institutions, in commerce and trade in health commodities and in the policy dialogue arena. Generally, the imbalance and inequity are between previously colonized regions on the one hand and the successors of the colonizer countries and regions on the other hand. It is between the governments and institutions and individuals in the global north and the global south or the so-called rich and poor countries. At the individual level, relics of our colonial history have left behind overt and covert ingrained perceptions and attitudes of superiority that result in behavior that patronizes colleagues and institutions based on which region we originate from. The net result is that a small outsider elite gets to determine what health interventions get implemented in what context, what resources go to whom, and, in short, who lives and who dies.