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Decolonising global health: beyond ‘reformative’ roadmaps and towards decolonial thought
  1. Monica Mitra Chaudhuri1,
  2. Laura Mkumba2,
  3. Yadurshini Raveendran3,
  4. Robert D Smith4
  1. 1Orillia Soldiers' Memorial Hospital, Orillia, Ontario, Canada
  2. 2Science Facilitation, FHI 360, Durham, North Carolina, USA
  3. 3Clinical Operations, FHI Clinical Inc, Durham, NC, USA
  4. 4Department of Anthropology and Sociology, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Genève, Switzerland
  1. Correspondence to Yadurshini Raveendran; yadurshini.r{at}

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  • Decolonisation through Fanon is the moment of departure or systemic overhaul only accomplished by the removal of the coloniser or dismantling of structures that preserve power.

  • The global health industry by definition is colonial, and so decolonisation calls for a complete overhaul of the colonial situation that is the global health industry.

  • As a colonial structure, the global health industry cannot be reformed with metrics, checklists and incremental steps.

  • Decolonisation must address the pillars of colonialism including white supremacy, racism, sexism and capitalism.

  • The decolonising global health movement should be more introspective and engage histories of social theory including scholars such as Paulo Freire, Michel Foucault, Andre Gorz and Achille Mbembe.


In March 2021, Khan et al published a commentary titled ‘Decolonising global health in 2021: a roadmap to move from rhetoric to reform’ in BMJ Global Health.1 To our knowledge, under the decolonising global health umbrella, this is the first publication to make explicit how to move from theory to practice. However, we express concern over the prescriptive nature of this commentary, namely in its call for ‘metrics,’ ‘checklists,’ and a ‘map’—unironically all tactics that have been and are used by colonisers to assert violence. In this commentary, we directly respond to Khan et al and join the larger discussion on what it may mean for decolonising global health to move from theory to practice. First, we address the definition of decolonisation in decolonial thought, followed by the definition used by Khan et al. Second, we critically deconstruct the suggested “roadmap,” and conclude that these “reforms” will not realise the definition of decolonisation. Finally, we suggest conceptual frameworks that may be better suited to think through decolonisation in the global health industry.

Decolonisation in decolonial thought

We recognise that the decolonisation of the global health industry can take different forms. …

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