Healers and Helpers: Colonial Power Imbalances in Medical Missions and Global Health



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This thesis is about colonial power imbalances within global healthcare provision. Evangelical Christian medical missionaries and many experts in field of global health both consider themselves to be “helpers” to populations of people they understand to be in need of help. This reinforces the flow of high income countries sending sometimes unwanted “assistance” to low and middle income areas, similar to colonialism. The movement to decolonize global health has added tools to remove colonialism from care, but has not yet been fully successful. I add to the wealth of information about decolonizing global health provision by integrating medical mission care and global health into the same conversation, and asks if it is possible for medical missions to decolonize in a manner that the ‘decolonizing global health’ movement seeks to do. I use the example of Partners in Health and its liberation theology-based method of care as an example of decolonized care. On the other hand, it is not possible to offer decolonized care under the label of “medical missions” as the field is currently defined.





Purnell, Catherine (2024). Healers and Helpers: Colonial Power Imbalances in Medical Missions and Global Health. Honors thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/30534.

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