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Decolonising global health: if not now, when?

Ali Murad Büyüm, Cordelia Kenney, Andrea Koris, Laura Mkumba , Yadurshini Raveendran

2020 United States

The current global health ecosystem is ill equipped to address structural violence as a determinant of health. 

Histories of slavery, redlining, environmental racism and the predatory nature of capitalism underpin the design of global and public health systems, result- ing in structural, racial and ethnic inequities within Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities globally.

While the manifestation of inequity in individual countries or regions is bound up in the local-to- global interface of historical, economical, social and political forces, COVID-19 disproportionately affects BIPOC and other marginalised communities.

Aside from direct health impacts on marginalised communities, exclusionary colonialist patterns that centre Euro-Western knowledge systems have also shaped the language and response to the pandemic—which, in turn, can have adverse health outcomes.

Decolonising global health advances an agenda of repoliticising and rehistoricising health through a paradigm shift, a leadership shift and a knowledge shift.

While the global response to COVID-19 has so far reinforced injustices, the coming months present a window of opportunity to transform global health.