The professionalization of humanitarian health assistance: Report of a survey on what humanitarian health workers tell Us

Mamata Kene, Mary E. Pack, P. Gregg Greenough, Frederick M. Burkle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Introduction: While the number of humanitarian health workers has grown considerably along with the emphasis on evidence-based humanitarian practice over the last 15 years, no organization exists to ensure ongoing professionalization of this area of expertise.Hypothesis/Problem: To determine whether and to what degree the community of humanitarian health workers self-identify as a professional group; whether a need for a professional society exists to support such a group; and if so, what fundamental elements and activities should it encompass and provide.Methods: A humanitarian, listserv-based survey was undertaken to evaluate humanitarian professional self-identification, needs for and interest in professional support functions, and priorities toward developing a professional organization to provide needed services.Results: The resulting respondent population represented a broad distribution of age and experience with education and experience being equally important factors in defining humanitarian health professionals. Respondents viewed themselves as humanitarian professionals nearly to the extent they viewed themselves as health-specific technical experts who happen to work in humanitarian assistance; they expressed a strong desire to establish a professional society reflecting that self-identification; and that body should focus on activities of education and training, networking and dialogue, and developing and refining core competencies to support best practices.Conclusions: Humanitarian health workers self-identify as professionals in humanitarian assistance and as technical experts. A professional organization with specific support functions would be of interest to many humanitarian health professionals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)s210-s216
JournalPrehospital and disaster medicine
Issue numberSUPPL.2
StatePublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • humanitarian workers
  • humanitarianism
  • non-governmental organization
  • professionalization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine
  • Emergency


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