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Decolonizing Global Health

“Decolonizing and democratizing global health are difficult, but vital goals” ~ Dr. Roger Glass, Director of Fogarty

Below are resources to learn more about engaging in global health in a mindful and equitable manner. If you are planning to volunteer, shadow, or work with communities abroad, please also refer to our pre-departure resources. Undergraduate students are encouraged to check out our student-created Undergraduate Global Health Manual.

What to Watch

Social Identity, Bias, Ethnocentrism, and Cultural Considerations

Indigenous Perspectives

Social Media

  • Twitter: @GlobalHealthOrg, @paimadhu, @udnore, @cairhihenbuwa
  • Social media hashtags: #decolonizescience, #decolonisescience, #decolonizeglobalhealth


What to Read

For Black students:

For Asian/Pacific Island American students:

For Hispanic/Latino American students:

For Native American students:

For women:

For LGBTQIA+ students:

  • International Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA)
    • Provides a country-by-country analysis of attitudes and laws regarding LGBTQ+ people
  • ILGA-Europe
    • The website of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association’s European chapter; provides multiple resources, including a Guide to Europe
  • LGBTI Travel Information
    • US State Department resources for LGBT+ travelers
  • Utopia
    • An online guide to Asia-Pacific gay and lesbian resources, including legal and cultural information as well as links to country-specific resources.
  • If you have a smartphone and are traveling within the U.S. or Europe, you can download the REFUGE Restroom app to help you locate gender inclusive restrooms.

For disability and special needs:

  • Mobility International USA
    • Provides a wealth of information on disclosure of disabilities, disability accommodations in an international context, negotiating accommodations internationally, things to think about in taking a service animal abroad, and more.
  • Travelers with Disabilities
    • CDC source of information, provides external resources for travelers with disabilities and recommendations for proper planning

For religion:

More Resources to Discover 


Get involved in decolonizing global health at Vanderbilt!

Become part of the undergraduate initiative to increase equity in global health .

What is decolonizing global health?

  • Decolonizing global health is a broad concept that includes fostering cultural humility and improving equity in health and beyond. Many colonial legacies and inequalities persist today; the Global North has significantly more power and resources than the Global South, and the Global South, along with many cultural and racial/ethnic minorities, are marginalized and disempowered in various ways. These considerations must be taken into account when engaging in global health work and traveling abroad.

Our goals within the Vanderbilt community are: 

  • to raise awareness about the effects of a Western-centric view on research and global health
  • to help each other reflect on our own positionality in the health field and develop more equitable approaches to health

For a more detailed overview with several resources, check out our Undergraduate Global Health Manual.

The Decolonizing Global Health initiative aims to raise awareness about the inequalities and Western-centric beliefs in global health and to encourage self-reflection and the use of sustainable methods to address these issues. Ultimately, we hope all undergraduates interested in health professions can reflect on their own positionality and bring a mindset of cultural humility and commitment to equity in all endeavors.

So far, we have developed a curriculum with key concepts and considerations we want to convey that can be adapted to help any group traveling abroad. We have adapted the curriculum into a condensed interactive workshop, “Traveling Abroad With Cultural Humility,” which was presented to the Vanderbilt Pre-Medical Society for their spring break trip to Guatemala in spring 2022. We have recorded this workshop and other modules at the top of this webpage so anyone can use it as a guide to lead workshops for different groups. Additionally, we have compiled our resources on this webpage and in this Google folder so anyone can learn more about decolonizing global health and add their own information.

We are now working to distribute these resources around campus to reach undergraduate students. We have prioritized outreach to health organizations that go on trips abroad, but we are also developing partnerships with other health-related student organizations and any student group that might benefit from our resources and workshops. Our goal is to assist these organizations however they feel is best and to promote cultural humility and a decolonial mindset for the long-term, whether that entails hosting educational events, inviting guest speakers from VUMC, promoting their activities, or supporting their members’ research and equity initiatives.

Here is more information on how this initiative came about.

For traveling groups: our workshops will be most directly helpful as a pre-departure guide that your members reflect on before you leave for your trip. We can lead the workshop, you can show our recorded video(s), or you could lead your own workshop(s) based on our curricula outlines, the resources on this webpage, and any other resources you find or experiences you have.

For anyone interested in global health: You can use these resources for events and research of your own (e.g., for classes, publications, experiments, presentations, conferences, internships, discussions), we can provide speaker contact information, and/or we can host an interactive workshop around this topic. The possibilities are endless!

For anyone who works with equity issues but not for health: we believe decolonizing global health is inherently part of the larger conversation around decolonizing our global society and increasing social equity, and these resources can provide additional frameworks for promoting equity and support students interested in health. Integrating these health resources with broader equity ones can especially support and empower students interested in health from historically marginalized and underrepresented backgrounds.

Share your voice: If you would like to share feedback, ideas, people to contact, or contribute in any way, please email Dr. Elizabeth Rose or Teresa Xu. We appreciate all insights and are always trying to improve this initiative! See “How to Lead This Initiative” below if you’re interested in spearheading this initiative.

Anyone is welcome to take on this initiative and continue shaping it!

To continue leading this initiative, it would be best to ensure that these organizational partnerships are still in place, to continue making students aware of this initiative, and to expand our partnerships as applicable. Please do read our Undergraduate Global Health Manual to get up to speed.

However, you are welcome to take this initiative in any direction you like. The goal is to help Vanderbilt develop an increasingly equitable and decolonial culture, and that can be accomplished in so many ways.

Here are some other ideas for developing and expanding this initiative:

  • Conference: This initiative was originally conceptualized as a conference that brought together researchers, practitioners, and students from all over the world; however, we decided to focus more on building momentum on campus to make it a sustainable, long-term initiative. That said, it would be wonderful to see this initiative expand to include a conference after we’ve increased our voice on campus. For more advice on organizing a conference, contact Ike Obi at
  • Study abroad: You could collaborate with the Global Education Office to provide pre-departure materials for all study abroad programs. Although the students may not be engaging with health, cultural humility is important for all interactions with diverse groups. You could also collaborate with other offices on campus, e.g., the SCSJI, LGBTQIA+ office, Black Cultural Center, Women’s Center, etc.
  • Academic collaboration: You could assemble specific resources or a lesson plan for faculty to use in their classes (especially if they aren’t already teaching about the problematic history of our health practices). You could even try to influence curriculum standards in a department. Departments of interest include MHS, Neuroscience, Biology, Chemistry, health-related classes in foreign languages (Spanish, French, etc.), and more.
    • Examples of faculty trying to integrate non-white voices: Richard Lloyd in Sociology teaches about W.E.B. Du Bois in his class on Sociological Perspectives (SOC 3001), and Emerson Bodde in Philosophy teaches about Confucius and Asian philosophy in an Introduction to Ethics course (PHIL 1005).
    • Many MHS faculty are interested in equity and may have more resources: Laura Stark, Dominique Behague, Abelardo Moncayo, Jonathan Metzl, and more
  • Guest speaker events: You could invite guest lecturers onto campus (either in person or via Zoom) to share expertise on this topic. This could be in classes (both health and non-health related), as part of student organization events, or catered to the broader community (similar to a VPB speaker event or the Chancellor lecture series).
  • Collaboration with VUMC staff: Dr. Elizabeth Rose has done significant research on this topic. Angela Paolucci and Ann Green have had experiences abroad and have much wisdom to share.
  • Committees within student organizations: We originally envisioned a committee within MEDLIFE to work on this project and flesh out pre-departure materials and discussions for MEDLIFE. This approach can still work, depending on interest from student organizations. It could also be an opportunity to present all 5 modules and delve deeper into these subtopics instead of a single condensed workshop.
  • Formalizing the workshop: We had envisioned holding regular training workshops on this topic, modeled after Bystander Intervention Training, Pride Training, and Unconscious Bias Training workshops at Vanderbilt. A potential next step could be to make the workshop more formal/standardized so it can be a part of different programs beyond student organization trips, even for staff (i.e., there could be a required viewing to attain a certification).
  • Global collaboration: You could collaborate with researchers in other countries, especially in formerly colonized places like Africa, Latin America, and Asia, to host workshops, offer guest lectures/speaker events, and do whatever they find helpful. VIGH can help identify researchers; please reach out to Dr. Elizabeth Rose.
  • Expanding beyond short-term trips: it would be great to cover other aspects of decolonizing global health, including promoting broader equity principles, how to develop long-term research partnerships, etc.

Have a resource to add? Please email Elizabeth