Course: Refugee Health Care

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Course Description

Refugee Health Care addresses the provision of basic health requirements for refugees and the coordination of care among the agencies concerned with them.

Course Objectives

After completion of this course, you will be able to do the following:

  • Accurately assess the true needs and resources of populations displaced by natural or man-made disasters.
  • 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.
  • Understand the importance of other issues surrounding displaced persons, such as the international humanitarian law and human rights laws, protection of women and other vulnerable groups, psychosocial and mental health needs, and long-term solutions for refugees and displaced persons.
  • Recognize the value of collaborating with different players in the humanitarian field, including the affected community, local, and international organizations, host governments, the United Nations, military forces, and the media.


  • War and Public Health by Pierre Perrin ($30.00)
  • CD-ROM: Public Health Guide for Emergencies - The Johns Hopkins and Red Cross/Red Crescent ($5.00)

Course Topics

This course covers the following topics:

  • Welcome to Refugee Health Care
  • Lecture 1: Refugee and Disaster Definitions
  • Lecture 2: Causes of Conflict and Population Displacement
  • Lecture 3: Information and Surveillance Systems for Refugee Populations
  • Lecture 4: Hemorrhagic Fever Outbreak Investigation
  • Lecture 5: Health Needs of Refugees
  • Lecture 6: Assessing Health Needs
  • Lecture 7: Establishing Health Services
  • Lecture 8: Public Health Issues Regarding Water and Sanitation for Displaced Populations
  • Lecture 9: Control of Communicable Diseases
  • Lecture 10: International Humanitarian Law
  • Lecture 11: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
  • Lecture 12: Food Aid Programs in Nutrition Response
  • Lecture 13: Mental Illness among Trauma-Affected Populations
  • Lecture 14: Health Needs of Refugee Women
  • Lecture 15: Repatriation in Cambodia
  • Lecture 16: Health and Human Rights Principles for Refugee Health
  • Lecture 17: From Disasters to Development

Course Format

The main content of this course is divided into seventeen separate lectures and three case studies to be completed over a period of eight weeks. The lecture sections are presented sequentially and should be completed in that order. Different speakers deliver the lectures to expose you to a variety of experiences in the care of displaced persons. Each lecture is presented in form of audio presentations and slides - similar to lectures presented in class. However, unlike during a class lecture, here you can interrupt or review the previous contents of a lecture any time you please.

Grading Policy

There are no examinations in this course. At the beginning of the course, you are asked to introduce yourself to the class via a BBS posting. The introductions will be used to organize students into working groups that are similar in terms of range of refugee experience.

You will be graded on the basis of the following:

  • 50% of grade: End-of-term paper to be submitted by each student. This paper, about 2,000 words in length, should be well researched and referenced. It may cover any subject of interest to you that concerns refugees or displaced persons. The dates for submitting a preliminary title, outline, summary, and the final paper can be found on the course Schedule and Course Modules pages.
  • 30% of grade: Overall case study content.
  • 20% of grade: Participation in the LiveTalk sessions, BBS discussions, and in using the peer evaluation forms for the case studies.

Group Work and Presentations

At the beginning of the course, you will be assigned to a specific group. The aim of the group work is to expose you to the realities of relief work, where people from different backgrounds have to work as a team to provide humanitarian assistance. Groups may use any communication tools preferred, including email, the group's private BBS, and DED Messenger (which allows for synchronous text chatting and five-way audio communication).

Each group will be asked to address different issues on different case studies:

  • Case Study 1: Introduction to the Rapid Assessment (all groups will submit this case study)
  • Case Study 2: Introduction to Control of Communicable Diseases (1/2 of the course participants will be assigned to work on this case study)
  • Case Study 3: Introduction to Nutrition (1/2 of the course participants will be assigned to work on this case study)

In the process of this group work, you will learn to draw from your fellow students' skills and experiences. All groups are expected to turn in their assignments (in the form of PowerPoint slides) to the course teaching assistant by the date posted on the course schedule. You can review all of the case studies online shortly after the assignments are turned in.

A very important component of this course is your group work. To ensure that your participation is evaluated equitably, a "Peer Evaluation Form for Group Project" form will be used in this course during group projects. It has been used very effectively in the past. This form allows you to comment on the various group workings and rate the participation of your fellow group members. Please complete and submit this form according to the dates listed on the course schedule. Please be fair.

Your commitment as a group member is to do the following:

  • Punctually attend meetings scheduled by your group (e.g., via DED Messenger, LiveTalk, telephone, etc.)
  • Contribute meaningfully to group discussions
  • Complete group assignments on time
  • Prepare work in a quality manner
  • Demonstrate a cooperative and supportive attitude
  • Contribute overall to the success of the project

All assignments should be submitted no later than the due date posted on the course schedule.

Time Commitment

The most recent (2003) student evaluations for this course indicated that successfully completing the course involved the following range of time commitments:

  • 52% of all students evaluated spent fewer than 11 hours per week
  • 17% of all students evaluated spent 11 - 15 hours per week
  • 22% of all students evaluated spent 16 - 20 hours per week
  • 4% of all students evaluated spent 21 - 25 hours per week
  • 4% of all students evaluated spent more than 25 hours per week