Global Health Education in the Time of COVID-19: An Opportunity to Restructure Relationships and Address Supremacy

Global health and its predecessors, tropical medicine and international health, have historically been driven by the agendas of institutions in high-income countries (HICs), with power dynamics that have disadvantaged partner institutions in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Since the 2000s, however, the academic global health community has been moving toward a focus on health equity and reexamining the dynamics of global health education (GHE) partnerships. Whereas GHE partnerships have largely focused on providing opportunities for learners from HIC institutions, LMIC institutions are now seeking more equitable experiences for their trainees. Additionally, lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic underscore already important lessons about the value of bidirectional educational exchange, as regions gain new insights from one another regarding strategies to impact health outcomes. Interruptions in experiential GHE programs due to COVID-19-related travel restrictions provide an opportunity to reflect on existing GHE systems, to consider the opportunities and dynamics of these partnerships, and to redesign these systems for the equitable benefit of the various partners. In this commentary, the authors offer recommendations for beginning this process of change, with an emphasis on restructuring GHE relationships and addressing supremacist attitudes at both the systemic and individual levels.