Widening inequality, persistent power imbalances, enduring patterns of extraction, and the ongoing marginalization of key groups starkly contradict the goals of global health and challenge the prevailing narratives of its successes. The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the inequalities within and between societies, prompting critical questions about the persistence of unfairness and the need to address historic injustices that continue to shape the present. These questions are deeply influenced by the geographies of power. Former colonial and imperial powers, which are also home to leading institutions of research, education, philanthropy, commerce, and international governance, remain prominent among donor countries. In stark contrast, formerly colonized countries remain poor, and formerly subjugated (and marginalized) people enjoy less health and fewer years of life. Additionally, influential global health journals and leading authors of global health research remain largely associated with the United States (US), the United Kingdom, and other former colonizers, even though their work primarily focuses on formerly colonized regions and populations. Recognizing these disparities in influence and decision-making, calls for “decolonizing” global health have emerged from various quarters. These calls are part of contemporary geopolitics and seek to ensure that any new world order is built on fairness and recognition of equality.
This sub-theme seeks to examine each of these areas and facilitate discussion on the manifestation of non-merit inequalities, their consequences, and approaches to address them.