Humanitarian Health - MPH



Humanitarian Health - MPH





Humanitarian action is a citizens’ response to political failure. The purpose of humanitarian action is to save lives, minimize suffering, and protect the integrity of the people, usually but not always in a short period of time. The mission of the Humanitarian Health Program is to prepare a well-versed corps of global health professionals as humanitarian practitioners to address health and related issues in humanitarian settings. This program will equip students with necessary knowledge, attitudes and self-efficacy/skill-sets to assess needs, design and implement programs, and contribute to better decision-making, performance efficiency, and sound policy making within aid system and in humanitarian settings. The main strength of this program is in its breadth in building a wide range of skill-sets and to address the implementation challenges in humanitarian aid.


The overarching goals of the program are to train students to be public health practitioners and leaders in design, implementation, and evaluation of humanitarian programs and policies through learning to:

  • Understand and assess the fundamental causes of humanitarian situations and their public health challenges
  • Understand and analyze the interdependence of health science, socio-political science, economics, and global governance in humanitarian situations
  • Identify and apply common healthcare and socio-political and ethical tools and policies to assess and address the burden of a wide range of health and social conditions in humanitarian situations
  • Produce data and evidence with scientific rigor, and assess the efficacy and effectiveness of wide range of social and health care interventions in humanitarian settings
  • Generate and use best local and global level evidence for sound healthcare and socio-political policy formulation and program management, and to translate recommendations into actions that support on- the-ground humanitarian programs
  • Develop strong cultural sensitivity and cross- and inter-cultural competencies within diverse health and political systems in humanitarian aid
  • Develop understanding of and assume leadership positions in humanitarian aid industry and related disciplines
  • Work with methodological rigor in and apply ethical frameworks and contribute to international-level priority setting, program design, implementation, and evaluation
  • Communicate effectively the results of research and practice to a diverse group of stakeholders in humanitarian settings
MPH Core Requirements

PUBH 6000 | MPH Applied Practice Experience (0 credit)
PUBH 6002 | Biostatistical Applications for Public Health (3 credits)
PUBH 6003 | Principles and Practice of Epidemiology (3 credits)
PUBH 6007 | Social and Behavioral Approaches to Public Health (2 credits)
PUBH 6009 | Fundamentals of Program Evaluation (2 credits)
PUBH 6011 | Environmental & Biological Foundations of Public Health (3 credits)
PUBH 6012 | Fundamentals of Health Policy: Public Health and Healthcare (2 credits)
PUBH 6021 | Essentials of Public Health Practice & Leadership 1: Leading Self and Teams in Public Health (1 credit)
PUBH 6022 | Essentials of Public Health Practice & Leadership 2: Managing Organizations & Influencing Systems in Public Health (1 credit)
PUBH 6023 | Interprofessional Education Experience (IPE) (0 credits)
PUBH 6418 | GH Culminating Experience I: Proposal Development (1 credits)
PUBH 6419 | GH Culminating Experience 2 (1 credits)




Program Specific Requirements

PUBH 6400 | Global Health Frameworks (2 credits)
PUBH 6410 | Global Health Study Design (1 credit)
PUBH 6412 | Global Health Quantitative Research Methods (3 credits)
PUBH 6416 | Ethical & Cultural Issues in Global Health Research & Programs (1 credit)
PUBH 6462 | Nutrition and Food in Large Humanitarian Emergencies (1 credit)
PUBH 6467 | Ethics, Accountability, and Current Topics in Humanitarian Assistance (3 credits)
PUBH 6468 | Preparation & Response to Epidemics, Pandemics, Mass Health Emergencies, and Disasters (2 credits)
PUBH 6480 | Public Health in Complex Emergencies (2 credits)




Choose at least 6 credits from list below:

PUBH 6132 | WASH/Disaster Relief Management and Development (2 credits)
PUBH 6463 | Communication Strategies & Planning in Humanitarian Settings (2 credits)
PUBH 6464 | Mental Health and Psychosocial Issues in Humanitarian Settings  (1 credit)
PUBH 6465 | Reproductive Health and Gender-Based Violence in Humanitarian Settings (1 credit)
PUBH 6492 | Global Health Programs and Control of Chronic Diseases (2 credits)



5 credits - any PUBH graduate level course. 



Non-Academic Requirements

Professional Enhancement

Students in degree programs must participate in eight hours of Professional Enhancement. These activities may be Public Health-related lectures, seminars, or symposia related to your field of study.

Professional Enhancement activities supplement the rigorous academic curriculum of the SPH degree programs and help prepare students to participate actively in the professional community. You can learn more about opportunities for Professional Enhancement via the Milken Institute School of Public Health Listserv, through departmental communications, or by speaking with your advisor.

Students must submit a completed Professional Enhancement Form to the student records department [email protected].

Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) Training

All students are required to complete the Basic CITI training module in Social and Behavioral Research prior to beginning the practicum.  This online training module for Social and Behavioral Researchers will help new students demonstrate and maintain sufficient knowledge of the ethical principles and regulatory requirements for protecting human subjects - key for any public health research.

Academic Integrity Quiz

All Milken Institute School of Public Health students are required to review the University’s Code of Academic Integrity and complete the GW Academic Integrity Activity.  This activity must be completed within 2 weeks of matriculation. Information on GWSPH Academic Integrity requirements can be found here.

Past Program Guides

Program Guides from prior Academic Years

Students in the MPH in Humanitarian Health program should refer to the guide from the year in which they matriculated into the program. For the current program guide, click the "PROGRAM GUIDE" button on the right-hand side of the page.


Humanitarian Health MPH, in this educational context, refers to sets of theoretical and practical knowledge and skills needed to address a wide range of public health and sociopolitical challenges that often make up or affect a humanitarian setting. 

A humanitarian setting encompasses a variety of conditions including an event/series of population-level events that have led to critical and serious threats to the health, security, and safety, livelihood and well-being of a community or large group of population due to natural or man-made phenomena and the community is unable or lacks appropriate support systems and copying mechanisms to address them by itself/on its own. Therefore, even communities that have already developed some coping mechanisms to maintain baseline services or support systems face significant disruptions in all social, governance, and health structures which lead to significant increases in mortality and morbidity beyond the baseline for such communities. The communities then need some significant external support from the international or national groups or agencies to maintain their services, community cohesiveness, and the livelihood and survival of their population.

Program Niche: To comprehensively and inclusively address humanitarian health challenges, the unique strengths of this program is that it brings together the span of knowledge and practical expertise from experienced faculty, researchers, and practitioners who have decades of real-life and operational humanitarian experience from a wide variety of active humanitarian and global health organizations including major international non-governmental agencies, WHO, UN agencies, CDC and US government international and global health agencies, academic global health institutions, and healthcare institutions from across the globe. The breadth and rigor of such a rich group of experts to teach and train a well-versed corps of public health practitioners in humanitarian situations is unmatched.  The main emphasis of and uniqueness of this program is in its characteristics to bridge the divide between public health theory and practice when it relates to humanitarian settings by focusing on building skill-sets that address and improve the implementation phase of sound humanitarian practices and programs.

Careers Trajectories:
As practitioners in humanitarian health, the graduates of this program will have the competencies to pursue positions with:

  • The international and national non-governmental organizations and governmental agencies that provide healthcare services in domestic or international humanitarian settings
  • Academic institutions focusing on global or humanitarian health research and development
  • Foundations and private sector entities that provide direct services or support related organizations in global health and humanitarian activities. 

While there is no expectation for graduates of the program to primarily work in humanitarian operations after graduation, and they can certainly find relevant positions and function perfectly in general global settings, they will be trained to be more versatile in their skills and have opportunities to cover a wide range of global health activities, including humanitarian operations. 

Examples of these organizations include:
International Rescue Committee, American Refugee Committee, IFRC, ICRC, Action Against Hunger (AAH), Doctors of the World (DOW, MDM), Doctors Without Borders (MSF), OCFAM, Save the Children, Mercy Corps, NRC, IMC, FHI, American Red Cross, USAID, CDC, DFID, ODI, Swedish International Development (SIDA), NORAD, SDC, DANIDA, Refugee International, World Bank, UNDP, UNCHR, UNICEF, WFP, IDRC, CARE, World Vision International, Canadian International Development, ActionAid, WHO, People In Need, Global Fund for Malaria, TB and HIV, IMC, Catholic Relief Services, ALIMA, CONCERN Worldwide, Helen Keller International, Pathfinder International, Olan International, PCI, RTI, Women’s Refugee Commission, Mother-to Mother, Worldwide Orphan Foundation, World Connect, etc.

Examples of these positions could include but not limited to:
Head of Mission, Chief of Service, Country Director, Emergency Coordinator, Program Officer, Program Associate, Executive Officer, direct healthcare provider, Health Advisor, Technical Advisor, Medical or Healthcare Coordinator, Program or Project Coordinator, Policy Advisor, Logistical Coordinator, Operational Director, Operational Officer, Board of Directors, Program Manager, President or Executive Director, Faculty Researcher, Faculty Educator, Resident Advisor, Care Coordinator, Senior Advisor, Senior Consultant, etc.

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