Speaking at the Global Health Summit

Written by Prince Adu, UHRA Projects Coordinator and Hayley Mundeva, UHRA President

As ambitious and aspiring global health professionals, we sometimes find ourselves in tough situations. What do we do if we are immersed in a project that is being met with resistance by local community members? How can we actually promote capacity building in our work than merely offering a 'hand-out'? How do we avoid taking part in 'Helicopter Investigations' that mostly benefit stakeholders from the Global North? In other words, as practitioners and scholars, what ethical standards should we hold ourselves to within our work?

These questions are tough. They're uncomfortable. And it's largely because they're touching on challenging issues that undergird our careers. Here at the UHRA, we don't feel that sidelining these issues is a viable option - we need to break these ethical quandaries apart so that we can slowly reveal tangible ways of addressing them. 

The UHRA was invited to facilitate a skill building session at the 3rd Annual Canadian Global Health Students and Young Professionals Summit (the Pre-Symposium to the 4th Global Symposium on Health Systems Research) on Sunday November 13, 2016 in Vancouver. The event was held in the Sauder Industries Policy Room at the SFU Downtown campus. The theme of our session was Global Health Research Ethics. The objective was to highlight the importance of local participation and community consultation in global health research.

Led by UHRA members Prince Adu, Stephanie Parent and Preet Gandhi, the session looked at potential areas of conflict in global health research and how these challenges can be tackled and overcome. By walking the audience (of about 25 people) through a real case study followed by open discussions, the UHRA highlighted how power imbalances are often embedded in interactions that we come across in our work. To expand, a short skit first showcased a researcher from the Global North trying to get written consent from a potential study participant in the Global South who didn't understand English very well. The audience then reflected on a series of questions such as, "Does this represent a conflict in global health?”, “How did it happen?” and “What things can we look out for to avoid these challenges from arising in our work?”. These questions were first explored in small groups, then in large groups, which were mediated by the 3 UHRA Executive Board members.

We felt it was a very engaging and successful session. It was encouraging to hear feedback at the end - one person in fact told us they wished the session didn't end!  Overall, we hope this skill-building session opened up avenues for young professionals to continue taking part in these discussions and exploring these tough but important issues.