In this next article in a series unpacking my personal 2023 global health manifesto, I explore my fourth value: individual agency and responsibility (global health is us).
Global health is us
Global health is not a machine that chews up and burns out people. We chew up and burn out people by treating people badly, and by not recognizing their value, efforts, and work. Global health is not done by abstract institutions or robots, which are responsible for achieving results. We do global health and are responsible for delivering results.
If global health doesn’t deliver, we are not delivering. Yes, you and me, the people who design, plan, consult, input, research, inform, decide, fundraise, fund, communicate, advocate, implement…
People are global health’s greatest and most critical assets. They are not the only assets, but without us – people – nothing happens. There’s no research, no prevention or protection, no health service provision, and no care.
Global health is our responsibility
In global health, we love to finger-point when progress doesn’t happen as planned. (Mea culpa, I do this a lot too!) We’re extremely bad at taking responsibility or admitting mistakes (stay tuned for my next blog on this topic).
Because we often point at others, and expect some abstract institution or single leader to deliver miracles, we often lack self-reflection that we ourselves may be part of the problem.
Why do we not speak out when we experience or see wrongdoing?
Why do we not question or push back, but rather silently endorse statements and plans, or approve funds, when we know that they are highly unlikely to deliver what is being claimed?
Why do we accept that those we perceive to have the most funds and power will ultimately continue to have the say, on nearly everything, for nearly everyone?
Why do we sing along, even when we realize that the tune is wrong?
What has to change?
To achieve real impact in global health, we need to:
1) take better care of each other, and ourselves. Speak out, act, apologize, and ensure wrongs are not repeated. Don’t ignore your moral compass or responsibility.
2) acknowledge agency. Blaming institutions, policies, and systems makes conflict more sterile. It ignores that institutions, policies, and systems are built and held up by people. Ask yourself whether you are one of these people.
3) use your power. Each and every one of us has power. Using it may often feel strenuous, risky, or even futile. But ask yourself: If you don’t, are you just handing it over to others?
As I am by far not the first person to grapple with these concepts and our global health sector, please do share any insights, feedback, or ideas you have. These are always appreciated!