Health Emergencies in Large Populations (H.E.L.P.) Course

A multidisciplinary course for managing humanitarian operations in disasters, conflicts, and other crises.

Dates: 09-20 September 2019
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii, USA
Application Deadline: 01 July 2019

The Center for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance (CFE-DM) will conduct its 22nd annual H.E.L.P. course, held in joint collaboration with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), World Health Organization (WHO), and the University of Hawaii’s Office of Public Health Studies, from 09-20 September 2019 in Honolulu, Hawaii..


The Health Emergencies in Large Populations course was created in 1986 by the International Committee of the Red Cross to enhance professionalism in humanitarian assistance programs conducted in natural disasters and complex emergencies. The H.E.L.P. course has been conducted throughout Latin America, North America, Africa, Asia, Western and Eastern Europe. Since 1986, over 4,000 humanitarian, public health, and disaster management professionals representing 130+ nationalities have attended the course globally.

The Center for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance has collaboratively conducted the H.E.L.P. course with the ICRC and University of Hawaii since 1996, graduating over 600 humanitarian, civilian, and military participants. CFE-DM hosts one of nine H.E.L.P. courses coordinated globally on behalf of the ICRC and recognized humanitarian and academic training centers.

The H.E.L.P. course is a two-week course with a focus on the management of humanitarian operations in acute and protracted crises, armed conflict, natural disasters, and major disease outbreaks. CFE-DM’s H.E.L.P. course emphasizes a multi-disciplinary public health approach, weaving innovative trends, Asia-Pacific regional challenges, and lessons learned from recent humanitarian crises throughout the curriculum and discussions. We are preparing decision-makers and managers for what they will see in the field.

The course emphasis is on analysis and decision-making; pulling out critical challenges and ethical dilemmas from the content that our participants are likely to face in the field. The curriculum is utilization-focused, with the aim to enhance practice on the ground and foster a multi-disciplinary response with a public health approach.

A Joint Effort

The H.E.L.P. course is organized by the ICRC in partnership with academic institutions, National Red Cross or Red Crescent Societies, and public health and disaster management organizations globally. Current partnerships and locations for jointly implementing the H.E.L.P. course include the following globally-recognized institutions:

  • Nairobi, Kenya: The Kenya Red Cross Society and the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology
    Ouidah, Benin: Institut régional de Santé Publique
  • Baltimore, Maryland, USA: The Bloomberg School of Public Health and School of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University
  • Geneva, Switzerland: ICRC, The Geneva Centre for Education and Research in Humanitarian Action (CERAH, University of Geneva), and the WHO
  • Fukuoka, Japan: The Japanese Red Cross Kyushu International College of Nursing
  • Havana, Cuba: Escuela Nacional de Salud Publica and the Cuban Red Cross
  • Tehran, Iran: The School of Public Health at the Tehran University of Medical Sciences and the Iranian Red Crescent
  • New Delhi, India: The WHO's Office for India, the Indian Red Cross Society and the National Disaster Management Authority (TBC)
  • Beirut, Lebanon: The Lebanese Red Cross, The Lebanese University and WHO

H.E.L.P. Course Participants

The target audience for the H.E.L.P. course is managers in charge of humanitarian operations. This includes those that manage projects within their organizations, or health and disaster management professionals involved in national-level humanitarian operations. One of the aims of the H.E.L.P. course is to bring together practitioners with a wide range of backgrounds to provide a space for which they can benefit from each other’s knowledge and experience. This entails those from different professional backgrounds and a variety of countries/regions and national and international organizations, such as Ministries of Health, Ministries of Defense, National Disaster Management Organizations, the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement, UN agencies such as the WHO and UNICEF, national/international NGOs, and academic institutions.

Course Content and Curriculum

The purpose of the H.E.L.P. course is to provide professionals involved in humanitarian action the public health tools that will enable them to plan coherent, appropriate relief operations. The course emphasizes the decision-making process more than the actual technical aspects.1 The H.E.L.P. course has three primary objectives:

  1. To prepare senior health-care staff to take part in a humanitarian crisis;
  2. To develop a common approach in order to improve coordination between the various organizations involved in such operations, and;
  3. Define the conditions and skills needed to extend humanitarian operations to situations requiring medium-term and long-term planning.

To attain the above objectives, the two week H.E.L.P. course (originally, three weeks) was designed to review the public health disciplines and approaches most commonly utilized in humanitarian crises. The H.E.L.P. course draws heavily on the public health pyramid in its course design and the integrated approach utilized to providing services to affected populations. The public health pyramid is developed “…with the understanding that in order to preserve life and health and ensure respect for people’s dignity, assistance activities must be developed with an overall concept of public health. People need a safe environment. They also require the basic elements for survival: food, safe water, adequate sanitation and shelter, and access to preventive and curative health care.2

Figure 1. Public Health Pyramid

Learning Activities:

The two week H.E.L.P. course is a balance of didactic presentations, group work, discussions on best practices, case studies, exercises, collaborative decision-making, and presenting reflections and decisions. Every module seeks a balance between:

  1. Lecture or presentation;
  2. Exercise, video, or simulation, and;
  3. Group work and general discussion and exchange of ideas.

30:30:30 Learning Approach:

As a guiding framework, CFE-DM’s facilitation team members implement a 30:30:30 learning approach, opening with a 30 minute opportunity for collective discovery, problem solving and group work. The following 30 minutes is an opportunity for the facilitation team to present reflections and decisions made during group work, building toward key points and developing a framework for the content. The final 30 minutes is designed to present content/slides to participants, further reinforcing the frameworks and experiences gleaned during the case study or group work.

CFE-DM H.E.L.P. Course Facilitation Team:

CFE-DM is fortunate to retain strong partnerships with field experienced practitioners and trainers that understand the unique complexities of responding to global humanitarian crises. The Center’s facilitation team members have backgrounds working for UN agencies, international organizations, academic institutions and international non-governmental organizations. They have spent the majority of their careers in the field responding to humanitarian crises. The culmination of their experiences delivers world-class training that ensures participants are collaboratively addressing each content area through trainer-led presentations, case studies, and interactive exercises.

Participant Presentations:

Participant Presentations are collected during the course as an opportunity for participants to share personal or work experience related to H.E.L.P. course content or academic endeavors. The slide limitation is 5 slides. There is not a requirement for participants to present their presentations, however, a few presentations may be highlighted and shared during the course after further discussion. These presentations provide additional depth to each participant’s area of interest related to the course and are an opportunity for participants to share interests/experiences with one another.

Application Information

To apply, please complete all required information on the online application.

If you have difficulty submitting your application electronically, please call: (808) 472-0504, or email Ms. Stephanie Liu at . Applicants to the course will be accepted on a monthly, rolling basis by our Selection Committee and will be informed of the committee’s determination to attend thereafter.

The application deadline for the 2019 H.E.L.P. course is July 1, 2019.

Registration Fees

There are no registration fees for attending the Center’s H.E.L.P. course. Each participant is responsible for paying their own airfare, lodging and meals while attending the course. The Center’s H.E.L.P. course coordination team will provide recommended lodging, directions and administrative guidance to selected participants. Please note that the Center does not have scholarship funding available for prospective participants.

Academic Credit

For selected H.E.L.P. course participants interested in earning an optional three (3) graduate level credits through the University of Hawaii at Manoa, the Center will provide contact information to coordinate receiving credits from the University. Please note this is not directly managed through CFE-DM and requires a separate application and additional, University-driven admission requirements. University tuition fees will be waived for those attending the course; although a non-refundable administration fee of ~$130.00 USD will be collected by the University of Hawaii at Manoa and is the sole responsibility of participants to pay that are electing to receive the credits. The deadline for registering with the University is July 22, 2019.

Certificate of Completion

Upon successful completion of the course, participants will be awarded a Certificate of Completion by the Center for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance and the International Committee of the Red Cross. Daily attendance and the submission of a presentation highlighting an experience or research related to the H.E.L.P. course are pre-requisites for receiving the Certificate of Completion. Additional guidance on participant presentations will be provided to selected participants.

Contact Information

Please contact the below members of our H.E.L.P. course program management team if you have any questions that have not covered on the website.

Administrative Inquiries:

Ms. Stephanie Liu, Administrative Assistant
+1 (808) 472-0504

Course Content Inquiries:

Mr. Craig Jaques
Program Manager, Health and Humanitarian Crises Courses
Training and Engagements Branch
+1 (808) 472-0501

Thank you for your interest in attending our 2019 Health Emergencies in Large Populations (H.E.L.P.) course. We look forward to receiving your application.

1 International Committee of the Red Cross. H.E.L.P.: A Public Health Course in the Management of Humanitarian Aid. October 2001.
2 Assistance: For People Affected by Armed Conflict and Other Situations of Violence: Second Edition. International Committee of the Red Cross. 2012.