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Towards making global
health research truly
Lancet Global Health and Anne
Roca and colleagues put forth
a consequential editorial and
comment on the importance of
language, a word not enough used
in global health research.1,2 Their
core message echoes conversations
at our research organisation in
Bangladesh. Indeed, as in other nonAnglophone communities, language
has shaped our day-to-day research
and communication efforts in both
obvious and imperceptible ways.
We published a paper on barriers that
researchers face in low-income andmiddle-income countries pertaining to
access to resources and literature.3 One
of the authors was interviewed on a
Bangla online platform on the impact
of such barriers on local early-career
scientists.4 That interview attracted
more attention in Bangladesh than
the original English article because of
its language of delivery. One viewer
rightly questioned whether such
an important article could reach
the Bangladeshi scientists, policy
makers, and stakeholders for whom
it was most relevant, when written in
English. Although we had ended that
article with a call to make global health
research truly global, evidently, we did
not do so even as Bangladeshi authors.
Realising our failures, we docu­
mented the barriers that language
poses in our research context. A survey
of 100 members of our organisation
(including microbiologists, clinicians,
and community health workers),
revealed that 66% did not read any
of the 22 papers that the organisation
published in 2018, and about
5% read half of them. Language was
a barrier for 69%. Our ignorance was
palpable: in our quest to cater to the
Anglophone and Euro and US-centric
global health apparatus, we had
overlooked our local members, the
ones at the frontiers of public health.
www.thelancet.com/lancetgh Vol 7 September 2019
As outlined by Roca and colleagues,
structural interventions are required
for such challenges.2 However, easy
changes within small organisations like
ours are also necessary. For example, we
have decided to disseminate translated
synopses of articles published by our
group and are starting monthly journal
clubs for all, including community
health workers and support staff, where
the papers and other relevant work
will be discussed in Bangla. We aim to
reach out to other research institutions
in our country as well. Through these
changes, we hope to increase scholarly
communication both within our
organisation and with the community
we strive to serve. As global health
researchers from the “South”, when we
publish in the dominant language of
the field, it is important that we do not
forget our responsibility to ensure the
work remains broadly accessible and
relevant where it was generated. Only
then can global health research be truly
global and leave no one behind.
SKS reports grants from Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline,
and Sanofi Pasteur outside the submitted work.
All other authors declare no competing interests.
The Bangla version of this Correspondence is in the
See Online for appendix
Copyright © 2019 The Author(s). Published by
Elsevier Ltd. This is an Open Access article under the
CC BY 4.0 license.
*Senjuti Saha,
Md. Mohibul Hassan Afrad,
Sudipta Saha, Samir K Saha
[email protected]
Child Health Research Foundation, Department of
Microbiology, Dhaka Shishu Hospital, Dhaka 1207,
Bangladesh (SeS, MMHA, SKS); Department of
Infectious Diseases, Stanford University School of
Medicine, Stanford, CA, USA (SeS); Department of
Global Health and Population, Harvard T H Chan
School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA (SuS);
Bangladesh Institute of Child Health, Dhaka Shishu
Hospital, Dhaka, Bangladesh (SKS)
The Lancet Global Health. The true meaning of
leaving no one behind. Lancet Glob Health 2019;
7: e533.
Roca A, Boum Y, Wachsmuth I. Plaidoyer contre
l’exclusion des francophones dans la recherche
en santé mondiale. Lancet Glob Health 2019;
7: e701–02.
Saha S, Saha S, Saha SK. Barriers in Bangladesh.
Elife 2018; 7: e41926.
Sachalayatan.com. Interview with eminent
microbiologist Senjuti Saha. http://en.
sachalayatan.com/node/57282 (accessed
April 20, 2019; in Bangla).