Striving towards true equity in global health: A checklist for bilateral research partnerships

PLOS Glob Public Health. 2023 Jan 18;3(1):e0001418. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgph.0001418. eCollection 2023.


Interest in "global health" among schools of medicine, public health, and other health disciplines in high-income countries (HIC) continues to rise. Persistent power imbalances, racism, and maintenance of colonialism/neocolonialism plague global health efforts, including global health scholarship. Scholarly projects conducted in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC) by trainees at these schools in HIC often exacerbate these problems. Drawing on published literature and shared experiences, we review key inequalities within each phase of research, from design through implementation and analysis/dissemination, and make concrete and practical recommendations to improve equity at each stage. Key problems facing global health scholarship include HIC-centric nature of global health organizations, paucity of funding directly available for LMIC investigators and trainees, misplaced emphasis on HIC selected issues rather than local solutions to local problems, the dominance of English language in the scientific literature, and exploitation of LMIC team members. Four key principles lie at the foundation of all our recommendations: 1) seek locally derived and relevant solutions to global health issues, 2) create paired collaborations between HIC and LMIC institutions at all levels of training, 3) provide funding for both HIC and LMIC team members, 4) assign clear roles and responsibilities to value, leverage, and share the strengths of all team members. When funding for global health research is predicated upon more ethical and equitable collaborations, the nature of global health collaborations will evolve to be more ethical and equitable. Therefore, we propose the Douala Equity Checklist as a 20-item tool HIC and LMIC institutions can use throughout the conduct of global health projects to ensure more equitable collaborations.

Publication types

  • Review

Grants and funding

The authors received no specific funding for this work.