Workshop examines legacy of colonialism, impact on public health

Published on January 21, 2022

The University of Iowa College of Public Health is collaborating with the University of Global Health Equity in Rwanda to host a transcontinental virtual workshop examining the legacy of colonialism and its impact on public health equity and justice.

Co-hosted by two centers based in the UI College of Public Health—the Native Center for Behavioral Health and the Prevention Research Center for Rural Health—the free workshop will be held virtually on Zoom on February 1, 2, 8, and 9, from 8 to 10 a.m. CST each day. To register, visit

Sessions include guest speakers, a panel discussion, and interactive breakout groups where participants reflect on impacts of colonialism in their own organizations, actions, and minds, and develop plans to apply these insights in their own research and practice. This is intended to be an introductory workshop and people who have not previously engaged with these topics are welcome.

According to members of the planning team, colonialism can take many forms and has had a lasting effect on the health of formerly colonized populations in North America and around the world. They argue that the field of public health itself bears the marks of colonization, including enduring organizational structures that keep power and resources concentrated in powerful institutions in Europe and North America rather than indigenous communities, the global South, or other groups experiencing health inequities.

Teresa Brewington, a member of the planning team, is co-director of both the National American Indian & Alaska Native Mental Health Technology Transfer Center K thru 12 Initiative and the National American Indian & Alaska Native Child Traumatic Stress Initiative at the UI’s Native Center for Behavioral Health. She is also a member of the Coharie Tribe, and descendant of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina. Brewington says that American Indians and Alaska Natives have experienced health inequities since the arrival of Europeans some 500+ years ago that have had devastating effects on the overall health, quality of life, and lifespan of Native populations.

“We have high rates of liver disease, diabetes, unintentional injuries, assaults, homicides, intentional self-harm, suicides, respiratory diseases, and a lower life expectancy and quality of life than other demographic groups,” Brewington says.

Florence Akiiki Bitalabeho, senior lecturer at the University of Global Health Equity, says the workshop aims at going beyond just engaging the head, to engaging the heart and then the feet and hands. “We intend to ‘Walk the Talk.’”