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Improving Global Health Education by Removing Racism and Colonialism

January 8, 2024

In the recently released Pediatrics article “Transforming Pediatric Global Health Education Through Antiracist and Anticolonial Principles,” Fanny et al. make a strong case for a necessary transformation in the way global health education is taught (10.1542/peds.2023-062612). The authors argue such a transformation should be rooted in a fuller recitation of the historical contributions from people of low- and middle-income countries, many of which were formerly colonized. In doing so, a transformed global health curriculum would benefit the student.

To transform global health education, the authors recommend:

  1. Identifying omissions in the curriculum that could redress the colonial roots of global health education via a justice lens. They also call for the inclusion of educational material from voices in the communities that were formerly colonized.
  2. Challenging one’s assumptions about global health education via deliberative metacognitive reflections coupled with a learner-centered approach. Presenting and debating ideas that challenge learners’ preconceptions about global health education is a suggested starting point. The authors acknowledge the possibility of mental discomfort that may arise in pursuit of fostering a more proficient conception and implementation of culturally informed interventions in places that have fewer of the resources they may be accustomed to.
  3. Fostering just and equitable partnerships with host countries. The authors argue that this requires thinking about how to minimize significant workforce disruptions that may occur because of unforeseen (eg, a pandemic, change in the political winds) circumstances. Additionally, they recognize the wealth of knowledge that is gained by trainees when they learn from host-county healthcare providers and scientists who are at the forefront of identifying and addressing a given health challenge.
  4. Diversifying the leadership of global health education so that learners are not necessarily learning from people who have been historically privileged. According to the authors, people born into privilege may view the world and its challenges from a particular frame of mind that does not always encompass how those born in less privileged circumstances view the world. They also call on global health programs to recruit, retain, and advance learners with intersectional identities.

The authors explicitly call for global health education that is transformed in the four aforementioned ways and highlight actions within the AAP and an open-access global health curriculum (Global Health Education for Equity, Anti-Racism, and Decolonization—GHEARD) that provide a blueprint to implement these changes. They also rightly suggest that the impact and presumed effectiveness of this curriculum should be studied—particularly its impact on learners.

One wonders how much more we all could learn from such a curricular mindset change—from more efficiently managing the next global pandemic to addressing extant health challenges that have resulted, in part, from a history of colonialization.

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