School of Population Health

Introducing the Master of Global Health at School of Population Health

Image Introducing Master of Global Health

In 2021, the School of Population Health will be offering a Master’s Degree in Global Health, with the program transitioning from our current Master of International Public Health. The new degree name is a result of some introspection about our approach to global health teaching and research, and signals the School’s evolved approach. The reworked program will be informed by a commitment to address health issues that transcend national boundaries and focus on reducing inequities, moving away from a more North-South, development focused approach to health.
 
To kick-start the program within this new paradigm, the School organised a webinar to debate issues related to geo-political power structures, biases, and inequity in global health. Titled ‘Decolonising Global Health’, the panel was led by Head of the School, Prof Rebecca Ivers and joined by SPH’s senior lecturer Augustine Asante, BRAC University's Sabina Faiz Rashid, BMJ Global Health's Editor Seye Abimbola, CSU's Faye McMillan and Oxfam's Anthea Spinks. With close to 500 members registering for the seminar, the topic was clearly of interest to many who are beginning their journey or already engaged in global health research. The 90 minute webinar addressed some tough questions on the colonisation of global health and the need to challenge ourselves to recognise and alter deep-seated biases and entrenched perspectives.
 
The speakers began by sharing what decolonisation of health meant to each of them and agreed that democratisation of knowledge sharing, breaking our notions of supremacy and privilege and dismantling existing power structures and domination of the global north, were key to this definition and process. Sabina Faiz Rashid spoke about the need to create a research ethos centred on community engagement and respect. Speaking from the NGO perspective, Anthea Spinks talked about the dichotomy of trying to further the decolonising agenda while working within aid organisations that are part of a colonial system. She stressed on the need to constantly ask uncomfortable but critical questions of ourselves and our organisation that may continue to perpetuate power imbalances and lack of voice. Bringing in an Indigenous perspective, Faye McMillan addressed the need to understand inequity within a country and urged the audience to ask why the notion of diversity is still hard to grasp in Australia.

Addressing the manifestation of these imbalances in the policy narrative, the panel spoke about the current pandemic and why the global north experience has continued to dominate the conversation on the pandemic. Learnings from countries like Vietnam and Taiwan have not found a deserving space in our discourse on COVID-19. Seye Abimbola spoke to this issue and elaborated on what he termed were ‘structural problems’ in knowledge systems, platforms and academic publishing.

The panel also dissected the role of funding in perpetuating power imbalances and what a meaningful partnership between a benefactor and beneficiary could look like. Augustine Asante broke down the role of philanthropies in global health and underlined why accountability needs to be at the centre of funding equations. He emphasized the need to push back against policy interference by foundations and aid agencies in lieu of health financing.
 
Finally the panel agreed there was a need to share the socio-political contextualisation of global health with students and future researchers to break this cycle of unequal power symmetries. Sabina Faiz Rashid asked why current academic programs were designed to share a ‘dry’ understanding of public health and how one could incorporate these issues into courses.  

Student Video Challenge

Student involvement in furthering the decolonising agenda is core to the School’s approach to global health and the renewed program. That is why the webinar was supplemented with a Student Challenge, whereby students were asked to create a video that showed what decolonising global health means to them. The judges’ panel received 11 fabulous entries and after a challenging selection exercise, four winners emerged. Congratulations to Myron Godinho, Rubana Islam, Samuel Harley and Alex Ankomah for their inspiring take on the topic!

You can watch the webinar and student videos here.

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School of Population Health (SPH), UNSW Medicine