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Non-Communicable Diseases in Humanitarian Settings

University of Copenhagen via Coursera


NCDs are the leading cause of death in almost every region of the world, and place a huge burden on individuals, families and societies. Humanitarian settings have a negative effect on the levels of disease, and the possibility of treatment. The importance of NCDs in global health is acknowledged by their inclusion in the Sustainable Development Goals, which call for a reduction of a third in premature mortality from NCDs by 2030. However, NCDs have until recently received little attention in humanitarian settings, leaving prevention, care and treatment needs largely unaddressed among some of the most vulnerable populations. According to the World Health Organization, 70 percent of global deaths are due to NCDs. The four main disease groups which cause the greatest number of deaths are cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (including asthma).

The course will provide knowledge about issues and dilemmas that occur around NCDs in humanitarian settings and possible solutions.

Why are NCDs a problem in humanitarian emergencies or crises? Natural disasters and complex emergencies, including armed conflict, have a negative effect on the levels of disease, and on the possibilities for preventing, treating and caring for people with NCDs. People living with NCDs often need continuous care to avoid disease progression, and disrupted treatment due to natural disaster or emergencies pose a large health challenge. In conflict situations and fragile contexts, the challenge of disrupted care and treatment may be exacerbated – an estimated 65 million people have been forcibly displaced by conflict, displacement lasts longer, and at times health systems and health personnel are deliberately targeted.


  • Module 1: Why is it important?
    • In module one you will learn about why NCDs have increased in the world as a whole and about why NCDs are a particular problem in humanitarian emergencies or crises. Natural disasters and complex emergencies including armed conflict may have a negative effect, both on the levels of disease, and on the possibilities for preventing, treating or caring for people with NCDs.
  • Module - What is being done?
    • In module two you will learn about some of the basic approaches of humanitarian action and how they might that apply to NCDs. This would include basic concepts, and how they might help or hamper the response to NCDs.
  • Module: Challenges and Opportunities
    • In module three you will learn about prioritization (the classical first priority for health response to save lives, and concentrate on excess mortality and morbidity), the importance of risk analysis (the risk equation), the challenges involved in transition from acute to longer term assistance – from blueprint to contextualizing and building capacity – as well as about longer term budgetary issues.

Taught by

Siri Tellier


4.8 rating at Coursera based on 103 ratings

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