In 2010, a devastating earthquake hit the Haitian capital of Port au Prince—one of the most vulnerable cities on Earth. More than 200,000 Haitians were killed and many more severely injured and left homeless. Thousands of well-meaning humanitarian responders flooded the country trying to pitch in, yet many of them were unprepared and were more of a hindrance than a help.
Haiti’s proximity to the North American mainland made it easy for samaritans to arrive quickly and in large numbers. Unfortunately, these good intentions often impeded relief efforts. For example a valuable US helicopter spent 18 percent of its flight operations searching for lost humanitarian responders who were ill-prepared to take care of themselves rather than medavac’ing earthquake victims or delivering food and medical supplies.
Global health workers and volunteers, such as those in Haiti, are often exposed to unfamiliar situations for which they are unprepared. What should have been a net positive to a precarious relief effort in Haiti was in fact a drain on already precious and desperately needed resources. To provide participants from all walks of life with competencies in global health care, Dr. Jay Lemery, of the University of Colorado, is helping learners around the world better contextualize experiences, optimize self-reliance and situational awareness.
His course, the Foundations for Global Health Responders, is not about disaster response. Instead, we discuss responsible engagement and provide foundational knowledge to be a meaningful participant in the world of global health. Lemery and his colleagues are also offering follow-up in-person hands-on workshops offered at locations around the world for learners wishing to be certified as Global Health Responders through the University of Colorado School of Medicine.