What has previously surfaced in the media and is a topic fresh on the mind of any progressive-thinking passionate health care professional is the need for the decolonisation of the medical sciences curricula in South Africa. Finally people are getting the idea - to become health professionals effective within the fairly unique South African context, we need to be educated in a way that prepares us for a future in service to patients within the context of South African communities. The alignment of curricula with the decolonisation agenda will reap great benefits for the currently fragmented and heavily- challenged South African health care system.
Firstly, there is a major misconception that healthcare and science curricula cannot be decolonised. This is absolutely false and moving forward with decolonised curricula is absolutely crucial for the way forward for South African health systems. The training of health care professionals at an adequate standard is essential to providing quality care and patient satisfaction and is critical in providing care that reduces morbidity and mortality. Furthermore, training health professionals in our unique South African and African context is equally crucial to provide care that is context-specific and culture-sensitive to those benefiting from the care of health professionals.
Moving forward, some major aspects need to be incorporated into the training of health care professionals. Firstly the link between social determinants of health, socioeconomic factors and inequalities need to be reiterated within all curricula of medical students and other health professionals involved in the health care team. Moving forward cognisant of relative strategies to combat health inequalities contextualized to the South African situation and particularly to South Africa’s history are essential to contribute to the provision of equitable access to healthcare for all communities, both rural and urban, both educated and uneducated and both health literate and health illiterate.
Acknowledging our sources of knowledge is absolutely essential. Current curricula rely heavily, if not solely, on Western medicine focused on mainly a biomedical approach to treatment. During the colonisation of many parts of our world, indigenous thinking with regard to health was stamped out, deemed inferior to Western medicine and has thus not been developed on a large scale to combat illness. Instead, Western medicine has triumphed over these due to having the backing of Western pharmaceutical companies and institutions pouring in financial support into Research and Development (R&D) to line the pockets of company shareholders. In South Africa we have a wealth of understanding involving indigenous health knowledge and practice that has been used to preserve and promote life for many years. Within Africa we see a further continuum of indigenous health knowledge that can be tapped into to provide context-specific and culturally-sensitive care to our people. Treating African communities with purely Western biomedical methods and Western frames of reference is not ideal and an incorporation of indigenous knowledge into our methods of health care provision is essential in moving forward. A shift is required that involves the liberation of African health concepts and that deconstructs the Western ideas that currently cripple this valuable wealth of knowledge.