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Whose Global? Challenges and Choices for Public Health, with Dr. Rene Loewenson

19 January 2022 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

This seminar presentation—part of the Dahdaleh Institute's Decolonizing Global Health Research Seminar Series—will explore the different, convergent, and contesting paradigms shaping ideas and action in public health, drawing from different geopolitical regions, and the implications for health systems.

It will critically review how these different paradigms have been expressed and how dominance has been asserted in colonial, neo-colonial, and global systems affecting public health, including in the response to COVID. The pandemic has exposed a response that draws on different forms of power to sustain longstanding structural drivers of multiple crises affecting health, despite intensifying these drivers. The presentation will explore dimensions of countervailing power that challenge this hegemony and promote comprehensive, justice-driven, holistic approaches in public health and the implications for sites of action.

Dr. Rene Loewenson (Director Training and Research Support Centre; Equity Watch cluster lead, EQUINET) was the external co-ordinator for the project on Community Responses to HIV/AIDS 2003-2005. Rene, an epidemiologist by profession, has work experience in public health, occupational health, and the political economy of health and employment, particularly in Southern Africa. She taught at the University of Zimbabwe Medical School for 10 years in the 1980s, where she also worked on primary health care services, nutrition, public health, and occupational health improvements generally, and particularly for farmworker communities. In the 1990s she set up and worked in a health department in the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, and initiated and co-ordinated an African regional programme on health, safety, and environment in the Organization of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU). Within the unions she worked on building a programme of participatory research on occupational health with union shop-stewards and workers, supported national union negotiations on health and safety, and on national social security, and initiated a regional programme on HIV/AIDS and employment, contributing in the latter case to the adoption of a new law in Zimbabwe and a Southern African Development Community (SADC) code on HIV/AIDS and employment. She chaired for some years the national tripartite Zimbabwe Occupational Health and Safety Council and the national Public Health Advisory Board.

In the mid 1990s she set up the Training and Research Support Centre (TARSC), a non-profit centre headquartered in Zimbabwe and working mainly in Southern Africa to support an effective civil society-state interface on health and social policy. She co-ordinates the Southern African Network on Equity in Health (EQUINET), which carries out research, capacity support, and policy dialogue within professional, civil society, state, and academic institutions in the SADC region in collaboration with SADC. With civil society, she initiated a district-level network of civil society organizations working on primary health care in order to support community responses to health in Zimbabwe, and is co-ordinating a multicountry programme on governance and health at the community level in Southern Africa. She has also worked on health and employment issues, health policy and issues of community participation in health with a number of United National agencies, including ILO, UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF, WHO, and UNRISD.


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