Global Health

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University of South Florida
College of Public Health
Global Health
12901 Bruce B. Downs Blvd.
Tampa, FL 33612-3805

Global Disaster Management & Humanitarian Relief

The field of disaster management and humanitarian relief plays an important role in global health, especially in the areas of armed conflict and natural disasters. With the increase in weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear and biological threats from terrorist groups and radical states, the need for formal training and education has increased. Local and international organizations, governments and United Nation agencies are in need of highly trained professionals to manage and direct programs to reduce the global public health threats that continue to plague us. Where and when the next tsunami or earthquake will strike, or how the next terrorist group will respond is unknown. But the logic behind professionally mitigating and preparing for one of these incidences places us in a stronger position to respond.

The field of disaster management and humanitarian assistance has had a growing interest since September 11th. The University of South Florida's College of Public Health began the Graduate Certificate in Disaster Management (DM) in 2002 and the Graduate Certificate in Humanitarian Assistance (HA) in 2005. Both certificates have complimented one another. The DM courses focus on the disaster cycle (preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation), while the HA courses disseminate global health knowledge at the recovery phase (e.g., refugees and internally displaced populations in Colombia, Gaza, Congo, Sudan).

The Global Disaster Management and Humanitarian Relief Master's Degree in Public Health (MPH) brings together the certificate courses under a concentration giving students the opportunity to earn an MPH plus a Graduate Certificate in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance. In addition this concentration builds on the existing framework of the College of Public Health core courses, field experience and special project. Combining this framework with the disaster management and humanitarian assistance courses provides graduates with the ability to recognize, assess, implement and evaluate both global and domestic disasters.
This is a fully online program, worth 48-51 graduate credits, representing a total of 2016-2142 working hours (currently students must attend the Capstone course at the Tampa campus for one long weekend in their last semester). Upon successful completion of the program, students are awarded a Master of Public Health delivered by the University of South Florida at the College of Public Health, an accredited school of Public Health. The program is delivered in English; Duration of the program is two years fulltime (tri-semester: fall; nine credits, spring; nine credits and summer; six credits).

The program is composed of core public health courses, worth 15 credits, required concentration courses worth 24 credits and culminating experiences courses, worth 9 credits minimum. The complete degree can be earned in six semesters (two years), but must be completed within five years.

Some courses within the concentration need to be taken sequentially and thus require prerequisites within the concentration. All courses are 3 credit hours each unless otherwise noted. Applicants that completed courses in either the Graduate Certificate in Disaster Management or in Humanitarian Assistance as a former non-degree seeking student may only transfer 12 credits into the MPH program. Click Here to view the Course Curriculum

The primary objective of the MPH in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Relief is to provide an individual with a foundation in public health and the tools to enter the profession of a disaster and humanitarian aid worker at the supervisory level. Upon completing the eight concentration courses the student will have covered most topics related to the disaster cycle with a specific emphasis on the recovery phase within the context of a Humanitarian Complex Emergency. The culminating Capstone course, the Special Project and the Field Experience will assess the student's knowledge base and self-assess their capacity to complete written documents and hands-on experience as a specialist in the public health expertise of disaster management and humanitarian assistance.

This program is designed to develop or improve the skills of persons interested in providing emergency health services in community emergencies at the global or domestic level. Upon completion of the degree the student will:

  1. Be exposed to the disaster cycle with specifics in preparedness strategies, emergency planning and assessment of hazards and use of available resources.
  2. Know the roles of all personnel within the disaster and humanitarian arenas, including but not limited to: the media, leaders, volunteers, non-government organizations, military, UN and Red Cross, and politicians in planning for emergencies, legal authority, public health surveillance emergency operations plans, mutual aid, emergency support functions, emergency operations center, resource inventory, disaster plan maintenance, and exercising the disaster plan.
  3. Understand the concepts of personal disaster preparedness and emphasize the importance of personal and family preparedness as well as community preparedness.
  4. Evaluate the results of a risk assessment of a community.
  5. Discuss the shift from disaster management practices towards an integrated disaster risk reduction approach in the context of sustainable development.
  6. Explain theoretical frameworks of inter-organizational planning and their application to disaster management
  7. Illustrate the scope of international, regional organizational frameworks employed to galvanize cooperation in disaster risk reduction and relieve human suffering among refugees.
  8. Analyze how resources such as assessment, planning, epidemiology, data analysis and public health education can aid in limiting morbidity and mortality.
  9. Analyze the benefits of specific methods and community resources applicable to the social and psychosocial effects of complex humanitarian emergencies.
  10. Identify groups most at risk from disaster (e.g., children, older adults, chronically ill, homebound, disabled).
  11. Know how to develop a Comprehensive Emergency Operations Plan.
  12. Understand the steps in the development of an Emergency Operations Plan and be able to exercise a disaster plan to test its effectiveness.
  13. Describe how post-disaster needs assessments provide the information necessary to begin recovery.
  14. Understand the importance of restoring the psychological and social functioning of individuals and the community.
  15. Describe the role of the United Nations, nongovernment organizations, and international financial institutes in international disaster recovery.
  16. Develop a seamless approach to provision of services among humanitarian organizations.
  17. Develop, implement, and monitor adequacy of services provided to affected populations.
  18. Assess choices made in the field by their ethical implications.
  19. Apply the principles of International Humanitarian Law to providing services in conflict situations.
  20. Be familiar with the SPHERE Project and minimum standards.
Students come from all walks of life with various degrees. There is a mix of military personnel deployed globally, Public Health Service Corps officers, governmental employees including those currently working in the disaster and humanitarian fields, and younger students who have the desire but with little knowledge of the profession.
Employment varies for graduates. Those who are in the military, PHS Corps or are governmental employees generally remain in the current employment but with a strengthened resume to move to a better suited position. Others just starting out will have the formal education but will then need to begin at an entry level supervisory position to gain experience. Currently we have alumni with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the military and PHS Corps, Federal, State and local governments, health care settings, and both National and International Non-governmental Organizations (e.g. Carter Center In Sudan, World Vision in Africa)
Most people entering a profession in Public Health are more interested in helping others than earning a big salary. However, we all need to survive and have a comfortable lifestyle. Generally speaking a person who earns an MPH should be able to start out in the $40,000+ range. Some local health departments pay less, whereas International organizations may pay more in stipends, living expenses and travel. It all depends on where you want to work and what you want to do with the degree.

Applications are submitted electronically through the Schools of Public Health Application Services (SOPHAS). Deadline dates for spring, summer and fall semesters along with required documents (e.g., transcript, essay, two letters of reference, GRE scores) can all be found at the SOPHAS website; Visit the site, review the minimum requirements (e.g., four year degree, GRE scores, application fee), and begin putting your papers together. It is quick and efficient. If you have any questions see the contact information below.

Scholarship / Financial Aid: College of Public Health Scholarships and Aid (available to degree-seeking students only) please visit:
For a list of all other University of South Florida Fellowships and Scholarships visit:

Data and Statistics
Year MPH program initiated: 2009/2010
Number of current students in the program:
Degree Seeking: 30
Certificates only: 127
Prevailing discipline: public health

Program queries:
Wayne W. Westhoff, Ph.D., M.P.H., M.S.W., C.H.E.S., I.D.H.A.
College of Public Health, Department of Global Health
13201 Bruce B. Downs Blvd. Tampa, FL 33612
Telephone: +1 (813) 974-6621

Admission queries:
Pre-admission Counseling and Advising, College of Public Health, University of South Florida
13201 Bruce B. Downs Blvd., MDC 56, Tampa, FL 33612
Phone: +1 (813) 974-6665
Fax: +1 (813) 974-4718

If you want to first consider one of the certificates you can access the flyers below by going to Disaster Management or Humanitarian Assistance. Visit the University of South Florida website at or contact Dr. Wayne Westhoff ( or 1-813-974-6621).