Public Health in Humanitarian Crises

A new online course to help you learn how public health concepts and skills can be applied to disasters is now online. You can take the course for free, or if you want to complete the quizzes and a short paper you will receive a certificate from Johns Hopkins and Coursera for $49.

By completing this online course you will understand the public health issues that affect populations troubled by disasters—both natural disasters and from conflicts. We will discuss the nature of disasters, how they affect lives and livelihoods, the diseases which occur, and how to respond to the basic public health needs of a population. These needs are varied—water and sanitation, shelter, nutrition and protection, both physical and legal. We also discuss vulnerabilities and reducing risks through disaster preparedness and mitigation.

The course content is a combination of basic principles mixed in with on-the-ground experiences. The instructors for the different modules illustrate public health principles with many practical ‘real-life’ examples. Together, the instructors and guest lecturers have over 200 years of experience in this field.

The course consists of 10 modules totaling approximately 9-10 hours with the course instructors and an additional 2-3 hours of self-work (quizzes and writing and evaluating a short peer-review assignment). The course has lively discussions forums.

The course has been designed in a way that each module builds on the lessons of previous modules. However, modules can be accessed in any order and some can stand alone.

You do not have to pay for this course if you choose to enroll without seeking a certificate. If you do not choose to pursue the certificate option (called “auditing”) you will still have access to all videos, quizzes, assignments, and discussions. The only difference is that you will not receive a certificate upon completion. Click the Enroll Without a Certificate link to sign up and begin the course.

Even if you enroll in a session that has yet to begin, you may access most of the course materials immediately by clicking the Preview Course Materials link. However, you will have to wait for the session to begin before posting on the discussion forum or accessing the final peer-reviewed assessment. Visit the Learner Help Center for details about session schedules.

For course modules, please click here

Course Instructors:

Gilbert Burnham, Johns Hopkins University

Martin Fischer, Independent

Jana Mason, UNHCR

Les Roberts, Columbia University

Paul Spiegel, Johns Hopkins University

Mija Ververs, Johns Hopkins University/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Is this course for you?

This course is for anyone with an interest to learn more about public health in humanitarian crises. You don’t need to have any health training, background or experience to participate and learn from this course. If you have an interest in the subject, and you are willing to dedicate some time to learn about this, that’s all you need. We are happy to welcome you to the course.

How to enroll?

For more information about enrollment, please click here


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