Devex CheckUp: Will the decolonization movement address inequality in global health?

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Calls to decolonize global health have been growing louder since the beginning of the pandemic, and this week, we’re asking, is it enough? Global health leaders, researchers, and practitioners are looking ahead to the next steps.

• “Decolonisation is a good place to start,” public health researchers Madhu Pai and Seye Abimbola remind us in The Lancet. They call for ending hierarchy within academic disciplines, and advocate for qualitative fields such as anthropology to be treated at par with quantitative fields such as biomedical sciences often led by high-income countries.

• Economists Aravind Subramanian and Devesh Kapur looked at the specifics in the field of development economics, and when they asked how many people from the global south are represented, the answers they found were insightful, but not surprising. Nonetheless, it’s an important exercise for other disciplines to emulate as well.

• Nutrition operates at the intersection of health and food systems — two fields that have a history of overt and disguised racism. IFPRI’s Stuart Gillespie urges us to dig deeper into the power asymmetries that are holding back progress.

At Devex, we want to keep the conversation going. Help us get to the specifics — which aspect of decolonizing global health should we cover next?

Calling the shots

• UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima, a vocal proponent of a people's vaccine, has called on the World Bank to support the TRIPS waiver. Meanwhile, in supporting countries' vaccination campaigns, World Bank’s Muhammad Pate said “it cannot be through a colonial mindset where you go and tell elected representatives what to do.”

• The rising number of cases in India has resulted in the government halting vaccine exports, which might lead to stalled vaccination programs across the world, Sara Jerving reports.

• As COVAX shipments reach their destinations, we take a look at how they’re being distributed. This week, Katarina Höije reports from Côte d'Ivoire, where vaccine hesitancy may be responsible for a slow rollout.

Fighting stigma

At least 92 countries continue to criminalize HIV exposure, nondisclosure, and/or transmission, and 48 countries still block the entry of people or residence of people living with HIV. Jenny takes us inside the new global AIDS strategy that tackles these difficult political issues. But the next challenge is translating the strategy from paper to real-life settings — and getting the backing of the governments that have failed to tackle them for years.

From the front lines

We ask health workers: What would make your work during the pandemic easier?

Do you know a health care worker with something to say? Send Amruta a note.

Global Health: Tech and Innovation

• A new venture capital firm aims to raise funds to invest in companies focusing on women’s and children’s health in low- and middle-income countries.


• As countries saw disrupted services for cardiovascular care during the pandemic, some digital tools are aiming to improve delivery where it’s most needed.


• Gates Foundation’s MNCH Discovery & Tools team Director Rasa Izadnegahdar tells Catherine Cheney what it takes to move innovations to the implementation stage.

Did you know?

Image by: Devex

28 countries in Africa have already received 16 million doses from COVAX but only about 1.8 million doses have been administered so far.

Read more here.

What we’re reading

• Cuts in U.K. aid will hurt R&D for diseases affecting low- and middle-income countries. [Independent]
• A clinical trial of COVID-19 vaccines at a Peruvian university sparks outrage. [Scientific American]
• The New Development Bank, established by the BRICS countries, has approved a $1 billion loan to support health care workers in Russia. [Reuters]

About the authors

  • Amruta Byatnal

    Amruta Byatnal is an Associate Editor at Devex based in New Delhi. She reports on global health, gender and human rights. Previously, she worked for News Deeply and The Hindu. She is a graduate of Cornell University where she studied international development.
  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.