Have you ever made a successful change in your life? Perhaps you wanted to exercise more, change jobs, or move to a new place? Remember how that change required a lot of time and attention? Change is hard. Creating effective social justice habits, particularly those dealing with issues of power, privilege, supremacy, and leadership in global health, is like any lifestyle change. Nonetheless, those of us engaged in global health programs, research, and education at UCSF are motivated to decolonize our work to realize an authentic and transformative vision of global health.
Setting our intentions and adjusting how we think about power and privilege is essential. It’s all about building new habits. Sometimes the hardest part is just getting started. The good news is, there’s a host of resources to help us become better informed so that we can be effective advocates and allies in our pursuit of authentic global health equity.
We have gathered a series of articles, poems, and videos that address coloniality, its legacies and attitudes that affect global health work. We hope this self-guided learning activity will increase awareness and deep thinking of our own work and inspire self-reflexivity around how we conduct our work.
All UCSF faculty, staff, and students are welcome to participate in this challenge, particularly those involved in global health work.
How It Works
- Commit to 21 days of learning-by-engaging with an open mind and an open heart.
- Each day, do one action to further your understanding of power, privilege, coloniality, supremacy, oppression, and equity.
- Dedicate a set amount of time to read, react, watch, listen, engage, connect, or act.
- In addition, participate in self-reflection by answering some of the questions posted in the weekly email.
- At the end of the 21-day challenge, consider how you can apply learned tools and new perspectives to your daily global health work.
- The White-Savior Industrial Complex by Teju Cole
- White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh
- A Sociologist Examines The “White Fragility” That Prevents White Americans From Confronting Racism by Katie Waldman
- Cultural humility versus cultural competence: a critical distinction in defining physician training outcomes in multicultural education by Tervalon and Murray-García
- Cultural Humility by Juliana Mosley
- Loretta Ross, Don’t call people out…call them in by Loretta Ross
- ‘Helicopter research’ comes under fire at Cape Town conference by Cathleen O’Grady
- ‘Health equity tourists’: How white scholars are colonizing research on health disparities by Usha Lee McFarling
- How not to become a global health expert by Chiamaka P. Ojiako
- Health research capacity development in low and middle income countries: reality or rhetoric? A systematic meta-narrative review of the qualitative literature By Franzen et al
- How to avoid global health malpractice by Madhu Pai
- ‘MZUNGU KUTUITA BWANA’ Kiswahili Poem by Abdallah Mwasimba
- The foreign gaze: authorship in academic global health by Seye Abimbola
- Conducting research through an anti-racism lens by University of Minnesota
- The danger of a single story by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
End of Week 1 Reflection
Reflecting on the content we covered in week one – whether we are in global health education, research, programs or whether you are student, faculty or staff member – it’s important to recognize the way that privilege plays out in collective work, and actively consider how those dimensions of privilege impact others (especially, but not only) in our global health work. In order to “check your privilege” we need to be aware of the benefits we have.
Take a minute to reflect on what dimensions of power and privilege you “own” and how they impact your work:
- Fair/light skinned
- Middle class
- College educated
- Good at taking tests
- Hearing, seeing
- Tall, thin, etc.
- US citizen
- Feel safe walking alone at night
- Enjoy my work
- Work is not directly tied to my economic survival
- Reading this in my first language
- A cis man
- Friends and family share belief system
- Anything else?
- Collectors, Nightlights, and Allies, Oh My! White Mentors in the Academy by Marisela Martinez-Cola
- Eliminating the White Supremacy Mindset by Binagwaho et al
- Using the COVID-19 pandemic to reimagine global health teaching in high-income countries by Atkins et al
- Teaching global health from the south: challenges and proposals by Montenegro et al
- UCSF Conversations for Change by Christian Montenegro
- Consensus statement on measures to promote equitable authorship in the publication of research from international partnerships by Morton et al
- Journals reflect papers that exclude African authors by Maina Waruru
- The role of journals and journal editors in advancing global health research equity by Jumbam et al
- Says who? Northern ventriloquism, or epistemic disobedience in global health scholarship by Tirusha Naidu
- Researching ‘others’. Rural and Remote Health 2021 by Ian Couper and Paul Worley
- Colonial Girls School poem by Olive Senior
- Decolonising COVID-19 by The Lancet Global Health
- Dismantling structural discrimination in global health by Bolajoko O.Olusanya
- Opinion: It’s Time To End The Colonial Mindset In Global Health by Abraar Karan
- The Canadian Coalition of Global Health Research Principles for Global Health Research Centering equity in research, knowledge translation, and practice by Katrina M. Plamodon and Elijah Bisung
- Can the Sick Speak? Global Health Governance and Health Subalternity by Tammam Aloudat
- How (not) to write about global health by Desmond T. Jumbam
- Reimagining Global Health: Conversation on decolonizing global health by Desmond Jumbam
End of Week 2 Reflection
Sometimes it’s hard to see how coloniality or white supremacy effects our day-to-day work, so take a few minutes to reflect on your own role and what can be done to address the way that racism and coloniality show up in your work:
- What’s my role at UCSF?
- How am I involved in global health work right now?
- How does white supremacy show up in that work?
- What can be done about it?
- Passport and Visa Privileges in Global Health by Madhukar Pai
- Envisioning sustainable and equitable World Health Assemblies by Khorsand et al
- Equality poem by Maya Angelou
- The unbearable heaviness of climate coloniality by Farhana Sultana
- De-growth and climate by Eugene Richardson, Maxine Burkett, Jason Hickel, and Paul Farmer. January 10, 2022
- Nobel Symposia Speech by Rigoberta Menchú. December 1st, 2001.
- Poem by Rigoberta Menchú
- Sustainability in global health: a low ceiling, a star in the sky, or the mountaintop? By Cancedda et al
- Epidemic Illusions: on the Coloniality of Global Public Health by Eugene Richardson
- Moving to anti-racist praxis in Medicine by Crear-Perry et al
- Racism, the public health crisis we can longer ignore by Devakumar et al
- How to be a better white person in 2020 by Michael Harriot
- 9 Phrases Allies Can Say When Called Out Instead of Getting Defensive by Sam Dylan Finch
- Fighting racism in schools of public health by Wandschneider et al
- 4 Ways to Decolonize Global Health by Joanne Silberner
- Decolonizing Global Health in 2021: a roadmap to move from rhetoric to reform by Khan et al
- Seven things organizations should be doing to combat racism by Esther Choo
- Decolonizing Global Health: Module 5 – Case study on efforts to decolonize global health research by Portia Mutevedzi
- Will global health survive its decolonization by Seye Ayimbola and Madhukar Pai
- Addressing power asymmetries in global health: Imperatives in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic by Ambimbola et al
- Decentering power in Health Policy and Systems Research: theorizing from the margins by Munshi et al
- I look at the world poem by Langston Hughes
End of Week 3 Reflection
Racism, unconscious bias, white supremacy exist in all areas of our work. While it’s critical that we address these things, we can not do everything all the time, we can commit to specific things at specific times. Change happens because lots of people commit to working over long periods of time. It’s incremental – what you do today, tomorrow, and next week matters. Write down one thing you can commit to doing in the next month and one thing you can commit doing in the next year:
- Read more about GH equity or decolonizing GH
- Join the decolonizing UCSF GH working group
- Write an anonymous (but constructive note) to the IGHS community suggesting ways that we can address coloniality in our work. Write on a postcard to FAQ: Robert Mansfield at IGHS, UCSF 550 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94158
- Take time to reflect – maybe make regular time to look back on your work each week and reflect on your actions
Decolonizing global health refers to the process of dismantling the artifacts of colonial power and racial oppression in the field of global health, and replacing them with perspectives, practices, and policies that prioritize the health and well-being of marginalized communities.
This process involves recognizing and addressing the continued influence of colonialism, racism, and imperialism, which have led to the exploitation and subjugation of people and communities in the Global South.
Decolonizing global health also means recognizing and valuing the knowledge, perspectives, and experiences of people and communities in the Global South, and centering their perspectives in the design, implementation, and evaluation of global health programs and policies. It also means addressing the structural inequalities that drive health disparities by working to promote health equity.
In short, decolonizing global health means critically examining the historical and ongoing power imbalances within the field and taking concrete steps to remedy them by prioritizing the voices and experiences of marginalized communities. It entails individual, personal action and collective and corporate action!
Decolonizing and localizing global health are related but distinct concepts.
Localizing global health refers to the process of making global health more responsive to the specific needs and priorities of local communities, by involving them in the design, implementation, and evaluation of global health programs and policies. This approach emphasizes the importance of understanding the unique cultural, social, economic, and political factors that shape health outcomes in different contexts.
Decolonizing global health, on the other hand, is a more comprehensive approach that goes beyond just involving local communities to focus on the long-standing power imbalances within the field of global health. It involves recognizing and challenging the ways in which colonialism, racism, and imperialism continue to shape global health, and replacing those structures with perspectives, practices, and policies that prioritize the health and well-being of marginalized communities.
In short, localizing global health is focused on making global health more responsive to local contexts and communities, while decolonizing global health is focused on addressing the ways in which power imbalances and historical injustices shape global health and promote health equity by centering the voices and experiences of marginalized communities.
Decolonizing global health means different things for each of us, depending on our work, roles, power and privilege. But here are a few things we can all do:
- Educate ourselves: Learn about the history and ongoing impacts of colonialism, racism, and imperialism on global health and health disparities. Read books, articles, and research studies written by scholars and practitioners from marginalized communities.
- Reflect on our own privilege and biases and recognizing how they may shape our understanding and approach to global health.
- Amplify the voices and perspectives of marginalized communities.
- Support community-led initiatives: Look for ways to learn from and support community-led initiatives that are working to promote health equity.
- Get involved in policy advocacy: Learn about and get involved in efforts to address structures that drive health disparities through policy.
- Practice cultural humility: Make a conscious effort to be respectful, open-minded, and willing to learn from people and communities with different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives.
- Incorporate a decolonizing approach in your work: If you are working in the field of global health, look for ways to incorporate a decolonizing approach in your research, programming, and policy work by involving and centering the perspectives and experiences of marginalized communities.
Decolonizing global health is a long-term process that requires continual learning, reflection, and action. But it’s the right way and the most effective way to bring about health equity.
This challenge was put together by the UCSF Decolonizing Global Health Working Group, members of the IGHS Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee, and members of the Bixby Center’s GH Equity taskforce. This challenge was inspired by 21-day equity challenges at other academic institutions. We think understanding coloniality, white privilege and white supremacy is a powerful lens into the complexities of doing global health.
We have started a curated playlist about liberation and legacies of colonialism and oppression.
This list is a work in progress. If there is a song that speaks to you about this topic, or if you think we are missing something, please email us.
We hope you enjoy it!