How to Know if You Should Work in Global Health

For emerging global health professionals from the world’s “south,” choosing whether to focus their energy on local issues or on international challenges is always a dilemma, Chief Planetary Health Scientist of Sunway Centre for Planetary Health in Malaysia Renzo Guinto argues.

“One important crossroad that I’ve encountered is tension on whether I stay in the Philippines and, for example, receive my education here, gain more exposure in domestic public health, versus gain experiences from abroad,” he says in the latest episode of the “Global Health Matters” podcast with host Garry Aslanyan.

“We have pressing global health challenges that we certainly can contribute in terms of solving them, but also we still have the baggage of the local health problems,” he adds.

Defining Global Health

As highlighted by Aslanyan, the term global health itself has recently come under significant scrutiny for carrying a connotation of “public health somewhere else.”

“The conversation on decolonising global health is ongoing, and I trust that this episode will further contribute to this important discussion,” says the host.

Aslanyan and Guinto discuss different elements of this challenge, together with Associate Professor in Global Health and Development at James Cook University in Australia Stephanie Topp, who also joins the podcast.

“I am not clinically trained, I am not a health professional by background, I’m a historian by background. And it is the inequity in health outcomes and specifically then access to health care that is why I feel motivated to work in this area,” Topp highlights.

Public Health Accountability

An internship in Zambia exposed Topp to uncomfortable aspects of global health, where people in positions of power are not held accountable for their actions. This motivated the researcher to pursue a Ph.D. in order to work on creating knowledge that could be used to make informed decisions.

Access to global health education is another crucial issue discussed by Aslanyan, Guinto and Topp.

“Education that transcends borders is essential,” Guinto notes. “Unfortunately, this is something that is not within the reach of many. And what we need to really think about is how to make these educational opportunities more accessible, equitable and even democratic.”

The key to solving these challenges, Topp argues, does not lie in biomedical knowledge, because biomedical knowledge does not address the question of equality. What is needed is global health experts “who can operate in urban planning, in environmental planning, in social service spaces, and who can inform decisions and work with decision-makers in those different sectors,” she says.

“In the end, I think that global health education lacks sufficient investment in competencies that derive from the social sciences,” Topp adds.

Listen to previous episodes on the Health Policy Website >>

Learn more about “Global Health Matters” podcast>>

Image Credits: Global Health Matters podcast.

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