The Colonial Legacy on the Social Dynamics in Global Health Partnerships

Talk Code: 
Josephine Reynolds
Author institutions: 
University of Sheffield


The Global Health field is increasingly challenged on an unprecedented scale, requiring global collaboration. Collaborative efforts commonly take place under the concept of partnerships between Global North (GN) and Global South (GS) countries. However, the most acceptable model for Global Health partnerships is a topic of intense debate. Postcolonial theorist warn of historic power dynamics perpetuating negative outcomes for the GS and highlight the challenges of achieving equitable North-South partnerships on the backdrop of colonialism. Global Health practitioners from both GS and GN backgrounds have important insights into the social dynamics of these partnerships therefore understanding these is crucial to achieving acceptable global health partnerships.


This study used qualitative semi-structured in-depth interviews with eleven Global Health practitioners studying at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to gain insights into the dynamics they had experienced in North-South partnerships. Non-random purposive sampling for ‘information-rich’ cases was employed with sampling for diversity to cover a range in gender, clinical or non-clinical and cultural backgrounds.


Three themes were identified within the study findings. It became clear that both the GS and GN relied on one another in a form of ‘symbiotic dependency’. This brought the two forms of self together, both bound by the colonial past. The GS-self predominantly seeks distance from the oppressive dominance of the GN to allow space for its self-identity to be defined. Conversely, the GN-self clings to the GS ‘other’ as core to its self-identity and shows no desire to seek separation.


Equity and ownership in Global Health programmes is integral to sustainable success. Now more than ever, it is essential for countries to work together in partnerships with effective and bilaterally acceptable social dynamics. Former colonial powers have a duty to reckon with their past and its impact on contemporary Global Health.

Presenting author: Josephine M K Reynolds, AUPMC University of Sheffield,, @drjosiereynolds