Global Health and Humanitarianism

15th February to 27th March 2016, online course.

Is humanitarianism an effective, justifiable and sustainable response to ill-health, inequality, injustice and war?coursera_logo

Global health is public health at the global level. It deals with the interconnections between people from all over the world. It is based on the idea that it is necessary to cooperate internationally to respond to diseases, disasters and conflicts which now threaten us all. Humanitarianism, in all its various forms, is one response.

In attempting to organise a humanitarian intervention, though, we are confronted by a wide range of problems. Most acute of these is the intense inequality which marks the contemporary world. Public health – its capacities, delivery structures and finances – is profoundly different for the 1 billion people who live in the world’s wealthier countries. Those elsewhere have much more limited access to publicly funded or privately insured medicine. As a consequence, humanitarian non-governmental organisations (NGOs) now deliver a large proportion of the world’s health care.

This course introduces these issues by looking first at the vague, yet highly contested, notion of a global health agenda.

It then goes on to consider how and why the world’s wealthier countries have sought to develop a response to the emergencies and crises that the vulnerabilities of others have produced. Here, public pressure and the ethical imperative to bear witness when confronted with suffering are especially important.

Finally, the course considers whether or not humanitarian assistance can be considered a right. It looks at the emerging Responsibility to Protect agenda and the associated moral dilemmas around sovereignty, post-colonialism and duty-based ethics.


Each of the 3 sessions below is built around a series of interviews with 3 leading figures in the humanitarian world.

The first, Professor Tony Redmond OBE, is a Consultant in Emergency Medicine and a founding member of the College of Emergency Medicine. He was founding Editor of the Emergency Medicine Journal and a founder of the Resuscitation Council.

The second, Professor Rony Brauman, is Director of the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute at the University of Manchester. He has worked in the field of international medical assistance since 1977.

The third, Professor Mukesh Kapila CBE, is Professor of Global Health and Humanitarian Affairs in the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute at the University of Manchester.


Course Syllabus

Week One: What is Global Health?

Week Two: Global Health definitions, case studies and evolution

Week Three: Humanitarian Responses

Week Four: Humanitarian Dilemmas

Week Five: The Right to Humanitarian Assistance

Week Six: Responsibility to Protect

Find more information here.


Tip: More up to date educational events regarding “Public Health” can be found online in the Education Database »medicine & health«.

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