Reconnection and Reflection: Discussing Inclusive Global Health and a Return to In-Person Events

The theme of the 28th Canadian Conference on Global Health (CCGH 2022), held November 21-23, 2022 in Toronto, was “Towards Inclusive Global Health: Priorities for Research and Practice in Times of Uncertainty.” I feel the opening plenary on Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Justice set the stage for the rest of the conference. We grappled with issues such as structural racism in global health and its resulting inequities in terms of who defines global priorities, who gets the funding and resources, whose values matter, who leads the research and who gets to participate in research endeavours. There was some consensus among conference participants of the need to decolonize global health by first reflecting on our own identities and power. In that spirit I would like to introduce myself: 

My name is Ilene Hyman. I am a female, cis-gender, white, settler, global health researcher living in Toronto, traditional territory of many nations including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishinaabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples and now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. 

These are some of the social identities I hold that act to privilege me as an individual, but I am mindful that in acknowledging my power and privilege, I do not disenfranchise others who may derive personal privilege from being part of a strong minority faith community or their historical origins to a non-Western country with a rich civilization.  We must also recognize that we are also all members of institutional and societal systems that pose barriers to the achievement of inclusive global health goals. As such, there was much discussion during the conference of the need to dismantle ‘systems’ and implement rights-based approaches that address and include issues of gender-based violence, gender inequalities, social protection reform and inter-sectoral action.  

There were too many plenaries, symposia, oral and poster presentations, to be able to attend or report on each one but some of the more notable sessions for me were: 

  • CanWaCH’s “Decolonizing global health monitoring, evaluation, research and learning: with, by and for communities”, where we heard about the experiences of community-based agencies, such as Salanga, and SeeChange, with community-led monitoring, evaluation, research and learning and the strategies needed to advance inclusion, collaboration and community-driven change.
  • “Towards a global health strategy”, where we heard about a recent discussion paper based on a recent stakeholder survey conducted in Canada to identify priority areas and leadership in global health and participated in a discussion on the imperatives, challenges, conditions and resources needed to support the development of such a strategy in an effort to enhance Canada’s role on the global stage. 
  • “Global health in times of crisis”, where we learned about the challenges in sustaining health services and humanitarian assistance in countries such as Afghanistan and Ethiopia, in the midst of civil war. We grappled with questions of how to uphold principles of impartiality, neutrality and solidarity in the face of human rights violations, how to ethically work with communities to unleash capacities and what is the role of the global community under these circumstances.   

There were also dozens of inspiring research presentations on a wide range of issues including, solar-powered breast pumps, kangaroo mother care, menstrual hygiene, and disability-inclusive higher education, to name a few. I know that many participants, myself included, were happy to see the inclusion of Indigenous content in the global health context including a plenary session “Stories for Change: Realizing Indigenous Maternal Child Health” and a remarkable presentation on building an equitable, sustainable & decolonial research partnership to address violence against Indigenous women.  

But finally, one of the most positive and memorable aspects of this year’s conference was being part of an in-person event after two and a half years of relative social and academic isolation. Although many of us managed to pursue our work and collaborative activities during this time using online platforms, there is nothing like being in a common space and sharing ideas, experiences, laughter and a meal with a group of like-minded and passionate global health professionals and students to solidify relationships and energize us to work together towards our common global health goals. 

Looking forward to seeing everyone in person again next year!

Ilene Hyman is a social epidemiologist with many years of experience as a researcher, program evaluator and policy analyst. Ilene holds Adjunct Professor positions at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto and York University, Health Faculty. She is a current member of the CanWaCH Metrics Working Group, Advisory Group Member at PEGASUS, Advisor at Catalyste+ (formerly CESO) and VP, Evaluation at Endeavour-Consulting for Non-profits. Ilene’s global work experiences include Sierra Leone, Senegal, Haiti, Morocco, Tunisia, Ethiopia, Nunavut and fly-in communities in Northern Ontario. 


December 20, 2022


Ilene Hyman