Introduction to Public Health and Global Societies: A note from the authors

Land Acknowledgement

“We would like to acknowledge that the University of Illinois at Chicago resides on the traditional Territories of the Three Fire Peoples – the Ojibwe, Odawa and Bodewadmi…
By making a land acknowledgment, we recognize that Indigenous peoples are the traditional stewards of the land that we now occupy, living here long before Chicago was a city and still thriving here today. As we work, live and play on these territories we must ask what we can do to right the historic wrongs of colonization and state violence, and support Indigenous communities’ struggles for self-determination and sovereignty.”

We would also like to recognize that while land acknowledgements as stand alone statements serve to educate communities about the histories and traditional owners of land in the United States and around the world, land acknowledgements alone do not necessarily bring Indigenous peoples closer to realizing reclamation of their lands. We support Land Back movements which are working to “build lasting Indigenous sovereignty” ( in real and tangible ways.

Welcome to the world of Global Health!
A note from Dr Karen Peters and Dr Mari Dumbaugh, University of Illinois-Chicago, lead authors

Welcome, friends, to the exciting, engaging, challenging, and inspiring world of Global Health!
Through these curated readings, multi-media clips and open-ended reflections we hope to engage with you in an educational experience that is informative, while embracing a spirit of critical inquiry. 

As Global Health actors and university instructors, we are passionate about our work in this field and our roles in the world. Above all else we aim to create a space for students to engage with new information and different perspectives by questioning, critiquing and working through problem solving in dynamic, creative and respectful ways. 

We also recognize that the nature of global, cross-cultural work generally — and in the field of Global Health particularly — raises complex questions. We believe learning and ‘doing’ in this field necessitate important, often difficult, discussions and reflections which are not always recognized across the fields of Public and Global Health.

From our perspectives, these discussions and reflections include:

– Acknowledging deeply-rooted histories of colonialism, discrimination and coercion in the fields of Public and Global Health;
– Critiquing and dismantling unequal power dynamics, including those created by neoliberal capitalism and systemic racism, as determinants of local and global health inequities, and ever-present in the professional structures of Global Health, development work and humanitarianism;
– Ongoing efforts to center the voices and experiences of Indigenous peoples and other populations who have been marginalized by systems of oppression and resulting health disparities;
– Holding space for histories and ongoing movements of resistance and resilience of people around the world facing oppression and injustice, including Indigenous populations, people of color, women, members of the LGBTQ+ community and other populations who have been marginalized by past and current systems;
– Recognizing Indigenous health as Global Health and Global Health as inherently related to local health.

Our aim for this introductory survey course is to learn about and celebrate the health gains made around the world because of Public and Global Health actions, while remaining grounded in the sobering reality of where we have fallen short, what is lacking and what work still needs to be done. In this vein, we aimed to create a decolonized introduction to and discussion of Global Health as a field and the pressing health challenges facing populations around the world today (or, at least, as much as our positionalities as white, American women will allow as we continue our own professional and personal journeys of learning, un-learning, reflection and deconstruction). We acknowledge that our personal decolonizing processes are incomplete and ever-ongoing. We will continue to adapt and improve this resource as we and the field of Global Health evolve, learn and acknowledge.

No matter which walk of life or discipline you come from, we hope this resource is informative and enlightening, inspiring you to think and act as a global citizen with an aim for justice and health equity around the world. We equally invite all students, colleagues, and fellow global citizens to offer constructive criticism, suggestions, and advice on how we may better position and improve this work in line with the aims set out above.

We thank all of our colleagues who have contributed to and made this resource possible as well as the authors we have cited in this resource, especially those who have also made their scholarship openly accessible for more equitable learning under Creative Commons licenses.

Dr Karen Peters & Dr Mari Dumbaugh

We would also like to acknowledge the hard work, enthusiasm, dedication and time of the following colleagues who are also authors, researchers and contributors to this fantastic project:

Rosie Hanneke, MLS University of Illinois-Chicago
Dr. Valia Kalaitzi, MSc, PhD Maastricht University and Indiana University
Shannon Kim, BA University of Illinois-Chicago
Janet Swatscheno, MLIS University of Illinois-Chicago
Dr. Alejandra Valencia, DDS, MPH, MS University of Illinois-Chicago