221.615.13 | AY 2013-2014 - Winter I Term | 5 Credit(s)
MTWThF 9:00:00 AM
  • Welcome Message

    Welcome to the Winter Institute Health Emergencies in Large Populations (HELP) course. This is the academic format for the popular HELP course taught for the past 16 years each July. Because it is the intent of the Center for Refugee and Disaster Response to make this course available to working professionals and those enrolled in other schools and programs, the HELP course is offered some years in January. This is a hybrid course, meaning that some of the background materials are to be completed online before the beginning of the course, so once the course sessions begin in January we can move directly into the practical and applied parts of the individual module. Because the Winter Institute HELP is a smaller group of students, the opportunity to get direct faculty assistance in the class work is very high.

  • Course Description

    The Health Emergencies in Large Populations (HELP) course covers the basics of health care in refugee and disaster situations, including disaster epidemiology, environmental health, food and nutritional issues in emergencies, the design, and implementation of health services, and management of communicable diseases. Also covers of conflict origins and conflict resolution, international humanitarian law, human rights and human security, and humanitarian ethics.

    This is a very interactive course where students grapple with real-world problems relating to providing public health services to displaced populations or populations affected by disasters. The faculty for this course are drawn from many backgrounds, yet all share extensive field experience in emergency situations which they bring to the students in HELP. This course also incorporates the extensive experience of the International Committee of the Red Cross (Geneva) who are co-sponsors of HELP.

  • Course topics

    The HELP course begins by looking at various definitions and conceptual framework for understanding disasters and the underlying, enabling and dynamic factors that make populations vulnerable to disasters. The Environmental Health module examines issues of water and sanitation in displaced populations and the public health implications of not doing this very well. In the Food and Nutrition module, nutritional requirements, micronutrient issues, and feeding programs area considered. The Epidemiology module helps participants understand how various tools and methods are applicable in emergency situations. Communicable diseases are often an important part of emergencies, especially with displacement of populations, and this is covered in a separate module which considers many of the important lessons learnt from the past. Public Health is very concerned with the appropriate and equitable delivery of health services in emergencies, and this is considered in module 6. Module 7 focuses on protection, which includes human rights, human security and protection of vulnerable populations. Key components are the Geneva Conventions which are included in the online preparatory module. While public health personnel face the consequences of conflicts, the understanding of their origins and their eventual resolution is important in planning. This is covered in module 8. Module 9 is a simulation of an emergency, and will give participants an opportunity of playing various roles in the emergency response.  Increasingly humanitarian work is is carried out in violent environments. Module 10 looks at how to ensure safety and protection of humanitarian workers. The final module is a discussion of the mental health issues that arise in disaster situations and how the non specialist can approach the needs of an affected population.

  • Course Objectives

    The Goal of HELP is to create an understanding the of the public health needs of populations caught up in disaster and conflict. This includes the background, underlying causes, and the dynamics which cause populations to be vulnerable in emergencies. Conceptually, students will understand the link between disaster and development and how development programs reduce risks for vulnerable populations.

    The Objectives of the course are to equip the students basic skills which will allow them to respond to the public health needs of populations in emergency situations. These include the areas of planning, epidemiological assessment, control of communicable diseases, information and surveillance systems, environmental sanitation methods and meeting nutritional requirements in refugee situations. The course will provide an understanding of some other major refugee issues protection of­ populations at risk, building human security and meeting mental health needs of affected populations. Through course work and course materials the important link between human rights, human security and the more technical responses will be emphasized.

  • Course Learning Objectives

    Upon successfully completing this course, students will be able to:

    • Apply epidemiological information toward designing and monitoring relief activities such as water and sanitation, food and nutrition, disease surveillance and control, immunization and health services
    • Design a survey which would provide public health managers with key information on care of a displaced population
    • Set out the key organizational actions to be taken after a sudden onset disaster
    • Determine what relief activities are covered under International Humanitarian Law
  • Intended Audience

    Students in health sciences or related fields; persons with field experience wishing to expand knowledge and skills in disaster management; for-credit and non-credit students; students in online and part time programs.

    This course is intended for students interested in the application of public health principles to emergency situations. While this includes persons considering a career in providing humanitarian services, it is particularly aimed at those who, while  pursuing various areas of public health are likely to be faced with populations affected by emergencies and are in need.

  • Methods of Assessment

    Student evaluation based on written work, presentations and exams.

    Students taking the course for academic credit will be asked to write a paper which should be approximately 2500 words in length. The topic would be the public health aspects of an emergency or disaster which interests you. This must show evidence of serious thinking and be well referenced using an accepted format such as APA, MLA, or Chicago style. This must be uploaded to the Courseplus drop box not later than 20 February, 2014. Note: this is subject to change. Students will be notified promptly of any changes.

    Grades will be 50% from class attendance and participation, 40% from the final paper and 10% from several short online quizzes which will be given during the course.

  • Prerequisites

    This Academic Format for HELP assumes that course participants have a knowledge of epidemiological basics, and understand fundamentals of public health. Other than these assumptions there are no specific prerequisites.

  • Required Text(s)

    The Syllabus lists learning objectives for each module. For each session there will be key readings listed which are included in the syllabus. This is available on the Courseplus website. The related sections in the two course textbooks War and Public Health (ICRC) and The Johns Hopkins-Red Cross Red Crescent Handbook for Emergencies are also available electronically on Courseplus.

  • Course Schedule

    Please see the course Session for a full list of dates and items for this course.

  • Academic Ethics Code

    Students enrolled in the Bloomberg School of Public Health of The Johns Hopkins University assume an obligation to conduct themselves in a manner appropriate to the University's mission as an institution of higher education. A student is obligated to refrain from acts which he or she knows, or under the circumstances has reason to know, impair the academic integrity of the University. Violations of academic integrity include, but are not limited to: cheating; plagiarism; knowingly furnishing false information to any agent of the University for inclusion in the academic record; violation of the rights and welfare of animal or human subjects in research; and misconduct as a member of either School or University committees or recognized groups or organizations.

  • Contact Information
    Gilbert Burnham
    Jennifer Majer
  • Disability Support Services
    If you are a student with a documented disability who requires an academic accommodation, please contact the Office of Student Life Services at 410-955-3034 or via email at