Free textbook: Public Health in Humanitarian Action

In collaboration with the editors, Siri Tellier and Niall Roche, the University of Copenhagen's School of Global Health is offering this free and open textbook on Public Health in Humanitarian Action as an open educational resource.

Download textbook chapter: Public Health in Humanitarian Action (pdf)

The book is originally written to be the 'Public Health' chapter in the NOHA textbook HUMANITARIAN ACTION IN A NUTSHELL, which covers a much broader range of humanitarian topics, including geopolitics, anthropology, and international humanitarian law.

Learning objectives

The learning objectives for this textbook are the following:

1. To understand basic terminology and concepts related to Public Health in Humanitarian Action;

2. To understand the basic patterns of excess mortality and morbidity, which can be expected in various emergency and refugee situations, as well as their determinants;

3. To know standard technical/managerial approaches to providing Public Health in Humanitarian Action, especially as provided by consensus documents such as those maintained by the Inter Agency Standing Committee (IASC), e.g. the ‘Health Cluster Guide’ the Sphere Handbook as well as the follow-up to the Sphere Handbook: the Core Humanitarian Standard.


Chapter 1: Introduction to PHHA
Chapter 2: Basic Demographic & Epidemiological Concepts
Chapter 3: The Overall Human Impact of Emergencies
Chapter 4: Governance
Chapter 5: Coordination
Chapter 6: Assessments
Chapter 7: Health Systems
Chapter 8: Communicable Diseases and Outbreak Control
Chapter 9: Reproductive Health, HIV/AIDS and SGBV
Chapter 10: Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs)
Chapter 11: Mental Health and Psycho-Social Support
Chapter 12: Injury
Chapter 13: Nutrition
Chapter 14: Water Supply
Chapter 15: Environmental Health, incl. Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WaSH)
Chapter 16: Excreta and Waste Management
Chapter 17: Health and Hygiene Promotion
Chapter 18: Vector Control, Settlement Planning and Household Air Pollution


Siri Tellier, External Lecturer, School of Global Health, University of Copenhagen
Niall Roche, WaSH/Environmental Health Consultant, Trinity College, Dublin

Thank you

The editors and the School of Global Health would like to express their deep felt thank you to the Network on Humanitarian Action (NOHA) and DG ECHO for financial support, to Nick Skenderian for invaluable research assistance, as well as to the contributors (see below) and reviewers, and Rudi de Coninx (WHO) for their time and effort.


Aside from the chapters written by the editors, the textbook comprises contributions from the following experts:

  • Andreas Kiaby, Humanitarian Diplomacy & Protection Advisor, Danish Red Cross
  • Lars Peter Nissen, Director, ACAPS
  • Jonas Torp, Vice President MSF Denmark, Haukeland University Hospital
  • Wilma Doedens, Technical Advisor, UNFPA
  • Alessandro Demaio, Post Doctorate Fellow, University of Copenhagen, Harvard Medical School
  • Kevin Davies, Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist, International Committee of the Red Cross
  • Dan Brun Petersen, Emergency Department Staff Specialist, Holbæk Hospital
  • Vibeke Brix,  University Hospital of Copenhagen


The current version of Public Health in Humanitarian Action is the first edition.
We aim to publish an updated version of this textbook every year on this URL:

Suggested referencing

Teller, Siri and Roche, Niall (eds). Public Health in Humanitarian Action. University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, 2016


This textbook by University of Copenhagen is free to use and distribute under the rules of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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