This series of podcast episodes will focus on Decolonising Research, and feature talks from the Decolonising Research Festival held at the University of Exeter in June and July 2022.

The fourteenth episode of the series features University of Exeter PGR Olabisi Obamakin interviewing researcher Jemima Kola-Abodunde.


Music credit: Happy Boy Theme Kevin MacLeod ( Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License




Hello, and welcome to rd in the in betweens. I'm your host Kelly Preece. And every fortnight I talk to a different guest about researchers development and everything in between.



Hello, and thank you for tuning in to this online resource. My name is Bisi Obamakin and I'm a second year PhD student at the University of Exeter. Today we are joined in discussion by my really good friend Jemima Kola-Abondunde she has nearly 10 years of experience in the NHS. She's a physiotherapist by background and has worked across various settings as a clinician. She's me, MSc in public health, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. And she's also worked in South Africa. Currently, she works in digital transformation and primary care, exploring how patient outcomes can be improved using digital tools. So thank you so much for joining Jemima. I really appreciate it.



Thank you. Thanks for having me.



So yeah, tell us a little bit more about your work. Yeah. what your interests are.



Yeah, I think you've kind of summarize really well. I think ultimately, my interests are wide and all within health care. And I guess the main focus is about optimizing health care delivery on a global scale for patients and ensuring that those that are most vulnerable are not left behind.



So that sounds amazing. Yeah, thank you for joining this decolonial festival. So yeah, what does decolonization mean to you?



Yeah, so this is a really big question. I think when I was looking up what it meant in terms of its definition. You know, the internet said, it's a process by a kind of which colonies become independent of the colonizing country. But for me, personally, I think it's really just going back to one's original roots, and identity. So whilst you know the colonizer might be absent, physically, in some places, to me, decolonization refers to the kind of the mental, social, and cultural independence and sort of disentanglement from invaders and reestablishment to one's original identity. Thank you so much. So,



so you're working in the field of public health in the NHS. And so why is decolonization important specifically in your field?



So, I think, when we talk about decolonization in the NHS and in the public health, I think, for me, kind of a refers to a lot, it has a lot to do with health inequalities. And it refers to, you know, inclusion refers to diversity of voices, ensuring that everybody has the same level of care. And that's not happening at the moment, you know, if we think about kind of the workforce in itself, the kind of the beam brackets, I appreciate, not everybody likes that terminology, but about 22% of the NHS staff are within, you know, would kind of classify themselves as beam and that's quite significant. So, you know, their voices need to be heard, as well as they need to be treated fairly. But we've seen kind of in the past that that hasn't always been the case. If we take the case study of COVID. That, in itself, showed us glaringly the health inequalities amongst minority ethnic groups with higher rates of death amongst, you know, black Africans, Bangladeshis because of a lack of understanding, lack of trust from patients public side. So yeah, there was a lot of thing happening, lots of things happening there from a kind of a public health and NHS perspective that ties back to kind of colonial roots, you'd say.



Yeah, and you know, just thinking about that topic. It kind of made me think about the COVID vaccine, for example, and how I know within the black community, there was a lot of skepticism with regard to the vaccine. And it made me think about, just historically how research has been conducted in Africa. And that has kind of almost experimented on, on black bodies. So how far do you feel like that has influenced people's kind of skepticism around the vaccine and that kind of thing?



Yeah, I think that has a huge part to play in all of this. I think fundamentally, I mean, I'm sure lots of people have lots of different reasons. So I can't speak for everybody. But I think distrust was a huge part of the reason why there was poor uptake amongst black and minority ethnic groups. Off the back scenes, talk about, you know, kind of case studies like the Tuskegee syphilis study, and, and Yetta lacs, and some other sort of public health studies that were done on black bodies. It's no surprise that people are quite apprehensive about taking you taking vaccines and so on. So I think that definitely has a part to play and why there was a lot of apprehension about certain groups of people.



Yeah, it just made me think about Yeah, historically, how research research has been conducted in, in Africa and how, yeah, there have been recent really unethical, really unethical experiment. Yeah, experiments and research that has been conducted. That is not okay.



Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. And yeah, it's really, really unfortunate, because, you know, public health, you know, you could say fundamentally has colonial roots. And so that, that kind of fosters and encourages the white savior syndrome, people parachuting into certain countries, you know, this, the power dynamics, also has a part to play in, in all this. So a combination of all these different factors without sort of CO production can kind of augment. Just poor practices, really, there's kind of public and global health. And so I think, you know, there are some examples of good practice, here and there. But I think, yeah, I think that's still a fundamental problem in public health, and even, you know, within the NHS, as well. I'm happy to talk about some of the examples of good practice, if you want me to, yeah, that'd be great.



I'm talking to people listening who might be thinking about doing research in public health, and maybe thinking about doing that in other countries.



Examples? Yeah, sure. No problem at all. I feel like, you know, you mentioned initially about the work that I did in South Africa. And that was part of a global health fellowship that I did with health, education, England. And that was a partnership. You know, not without its flaws, by all means, but I think it's a better model of working with different countries, you know, they know their context, and what we do know about kind of certain interventions, whether it's locally, nationally or internationally, that context is paramount. And, you know, hearing people's voices on ground is really, really important. So that's a global health fellowship. So you can just Google that, if anybody's interested or kind of you can. I'm happy to chat with anybody about that. At Kings also do a global health partnership as well in Sierra Leone and Congo, sort of a similar model, excuse me. Which Yeah, has kind of reaped good benefit I, I believe, as well on ground in those countries. So yeah, there's that and I think, you know, more sort of nationally bringing it home. There's recent health observatory within the UK that's looking at kind of health inequalities and trying to address them. You know, it was kind of mainly following COVID and everything that happened there. So yeah, there are some conversations. I think, most importantly, it's about moving away from conversations and policies and publications and making some of these thoughts and ideas more actionable.



So you met you mentioned your wife. Yeah. Tell us a little bit about that and work that you were that you were doing whilst you were out there.



Yeah, so I guess that work there, as I said, was with health education, England, I was a fellow there. I was in the Western Cape base at a hospital and I was looking at the stroke stroke my management's within the hospital and how that can be improved. And so everything I did was very much in partnership with the host, a hospital, with the CEO of the hospital with allied health professionals and clinicians and patients. And so it was really trying to facilitate communication between the healthcare staff, looking at things like a designated stroke board looking at documentation, and how they do certain things. So really, I was at their, you know, I guess service really, and try to address some of that. What was going on with stroke, stroke management, and, you know, following, I guess, the fellowship, it was good in the sense that communication did improve. There's just simple things like having kind of regular meetings between them, and streamlining some of the admin tasks. And, you know, listening to patient voices as well about what they feel is important to them. Yes, so that was kind of really just a quick summary of what what that fellowship was about.



Yeah, it sounds it sounds amazing. So yeah, so with regards to people that may be listening to this podcast, who may be considering doing research in other countries, in other, maybe other African countries? What What would you say to them? Like, how, what would you say would be good practice, especially thinking about decolonial methodologies and practices? How did they come? How do they, you know, not fall into that white savior? Complex kind of narrative? I think



what I would ask, I'd ask a couple of questions first, actually. And that would be what do you stand for? What motivates you? What's your version of a better world? And I think once you have some understanding of this, then it should help with your decision making. I'd say also to kind of stay curious of question the status quo. This might not always produce the most favorable outcomes, you know, the short and medium term for your career. But if it aligns with your values, it's easier to do. And I'd say when it comes to incorporating decolonial practices, I'd say, act, listen, and ask Excuse me, listen, and act accordingly. So ask questions. Especially if the power dynamics are skewed in your favor. Ask questions, listen intently to what's being said, and act accordingly.



Wow, that's really, really powerful. Because I think, yeah, historically, people have gone to different countries with kind of, you know, good intentions, and it worked. But you can end up kind of bringing your own Western ideas and ideologies and imposing it on to a people that might that may not want it. So I love it. It's a bit they should listen. And I think it's really important that people do who do research. Ultimately, first, listen, they listen to their research group, listen to their what they actually want. I think that's really, really important.



Absolutely, I completely agree.



Thank you so much for your time to MOMA. I really appreciate it. So yeah, what what's next with you? What is that anything that you're getting up to? And how can we keep kept me keep up to date with that? What are your socials?



He has? So I guess I'm probably most social on Twitter, so to Jemima K, on Twitter, and on LinkedIn, so just my full names you might not collaborate and do on LinkedIn. And when it comes to what's next, I think it really is just what I'm doing now. I'm looking at sort of kind of innovation, technology improvement, digital inclusion, all those things, but all kinds of within healthcare and how we can improve and optimize it for everybody, including those that are most vulnerable.



So that sounds amazing. But yeah, thank you so much for joining. I really appreciate it. And thank you, thank you for listening. I hope you feel inspired to find ways in which you can really use decolonial practices within your your research. Yeah. Thank you, Jeremiah. Great. Thank you. Thanks



for having me.



Bye. Bye.



And that's it for this episode. Don't forget to like, rate and subscribe. And join me next time where I'll be talking to somebody else about research. Just development and everything in between

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