Global Health on the Edge – The Humanitarian Tipping Point

Jason W. Nickerson


Major disasters pose significant threats to population health: rapid-onset crises can result in a massive loss of life, while protracted emergencies can result in both direct and indirect adverse effects to population health and livelihoods. In many cases, windows of opportunity present themselves to mitigate the effects of emergencies, but these opportunities must be seized and acted upon. Regrettably, current models of international development and global public health are frequently reactive, rather than preventive, with regard to major emergencies; major humanitarian responses frequently occur only once select indicators have reached or breached established emergency thresholds, which are late indicators of a population’s health. In order to avoid these predictable late responses, current models of international development and their relationship to emergency humanitarian responses need to be placed under the microscope. The public health community must serve as strong advocates for interventions to address worsening public health situations before they tip into crisis, and should be advocates for the reconceptualization and reform of priority setting in international development. The failure to do so quite clearly comes at the expense of some of the world’s most vulnerable populations.


Disasters; relief work; international cooperation; malnutrition; public health; emergencies

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