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Decolonizing Global Health
In this seminar, we will look at how global health discourse has changed over the years, and discuss possible future directions for global health exchanges.
This course will introduce students to the various definitions of global health from colonial times, through international health, tropical medicine and now global health. We will consider what moral imperative leads to global health work, and how conventional thought about the relationships between providers, patients and systems in the global North and South is shifting.
Global health has transitioned through various stages. In the 1800s, missionary doctors provided medical care while also spreading religion and colonial interests. During the twentieth century, great strides were made in sanitation and infectious disease treatment as part of systems and government based “international health” and “tropical medicine.” Paradoxically, in the last two decades, as the world becomes more intertwined, “global health” has generally involved shorter term encounters, usually with specialists at the vanguard. With the epidemiological transition and increasing communicable disease prevalence in developing countries, systems strengthening and capacity building are the main priorities. It is argued that the current global health infrastructure does not focus on building long term partnerships, or assign equitable worth to participants from the global North and South. We will investigate how effective our current efforts are, and think critically about the meaning of “decolonizing global health” as regards population outcomes and the flow of resources.
We will review each of these stages in global health development, and use examples of long-term partnerships that have yielded considerable success, such as Partners in Health (PIH) and Academic Model Providing Access to Healthcare (AMPATH). Guest speakers from primary care fields and with global health backgrounds will stimulate further dialogue and speak from their experiences on the front lines.