First GlobeLife seminar: Decolonizing global health research and education

Published: 2020-12-04

Uppsala University and Karolinska Institutet have joined forces to launch GlobeLife – a collaborative network that aims to unleash synergies within the realms of research and education related to global health.

The first seminar in what I hope will be a series of seminars under the auspices of GlobeLife will take place on December 7. On a digital platform, of course.

The seminar is entitled “Decolonizing Global Health Research and Education” – a timely topic in a time when global health is put to an unprecedented test through our handling of COVID-19.  

Growing movement

There is a growing movement to address the legacy of colonialism in global health and the persistent imbalance in power, representation and resources. We must be willing to engage in this discussion and not shy away from questions that are as challenging as they are complex.

The need to decolonize global health has most recently been highlighted through a series of student-led conferences and webinars, including one organized by students at Karolinska Insitutet in May.

Keynote speakers

The webinar on December 7 will explore the topic with the help of two invited keynote speakers and a group of panelists. The keynote speakers are Dr Lioba Hirsch, Research Fellow at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Dr Salma M Abdalla, Research Fellow at Boston University School of Public Health.

You can find more information about the keynote speakers and about the panelists and the practical arrangements, on KI’s webpage. The seminar is open to everyone and no registration is required.

More about GlobeLife and the challenges ahead

GlobeLife was launched in October, in the midst of the pandemic.  COVID-19 serves as a stark reminder that we must apply the global perspective to the work we do, from the molecular level – where vaccines, new antivirals, and antibiotic resistance are key issues – to the level of governance – where the social, commercial, and political determinants of health are brought to the fore. By applying a global perspective we show not only what we as universities are good at, but also what we are good for.

COVID-19 has unveiled and amplified the inequities in health that continue to erode trust and security worldwide. We have witnessed the consequences of not having health insurance or access to healthcare, not having water or food supply during lockdown situations, or not having civil rights or appropriate housing conditions. Many are left behind, and even more so now, during COVID-19, than before.

Leaving nobody behind

Leaving nobody behind is the overarching goal of UN´s Agenda 2030, with its 17 sustainable development goals. COVID-19 accentuates the relevance and urgency of these goals. Progress towards the realization of Agenda 2030 will make us better prepared for the next pandemic or health crisis. We need universal preparedness for health where the term “universal” implies that we must think and act across geographical and generational boundaries as well as socioeconomic strata. For this to happen we need to safeguard the legitimacy of global health. Any persisting colonial legacy would detract from legitimacy and risk undermine our efforts to find global solutions to global health problems.   

Local and indigenous knowledge

An essential step towards decolonizing global health is to fully recognize and adequately implement local and indigenous knowledge, through reciprocal innovation. This is a key aspect of GlobeLife and also a hallmark of KI:s collaborative project with Makerere University in Uganda. The latter project aims to build a virtual Center of Excellence in Sustainable Health that will explore new and innovative forms of collaboration that duly reflect the ambitions in UN´s Agenda 2030 and in our own Strategy 2030.

Please visit Globelife’s web page for more information.

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