About us at the Centre for Research on Health Care in Disasters

The Centre for Research on Health Care in Disasters aims to develop expertise and competency in global disaster medicine through research, teaching and training, policy dialogue and field work in disaster areas. The centre operates under the Department for Global Public Health at Karolinska Institutet and is mainly financed by competitive research grants from the Swedish National Board of Health (Socialstyrelsen).

People in protective clothing, and face covers during an Ebola outbreak. The people work for Doctors without boarders
Medical staff from Médecins Sans Frontières in protective clothing during an outbreak of Ebola
Three people standing outside a building. The building is a treatment centre for Ebola in the town of Goma in DR Congo
Ebola treatment centre in Goma, Dr Congo
a street outside a hospital in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia with a large green neon sign that says covid-19
Covid-hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Sign with information about Ebola, along a street with cars, houses and people in the DR of Congo.
Ebola information in the Dr Congo

What is a disaster and what is global disaster medicine?

  •  A disaster is defined by a lack of resources, such as lack of: staff, skill, material and time 
  •  A disaster can be both man-made and occur naturally
  • Global disaster medicine is a medical subject-matter that focuses on planning and preparing healthcare efforts in disasters, wars and pandemics, with the intention of minimising mortality and morbidity in different contexts
  • Due to the lack of resources that characterise disaster medicine, tough prioritising and clear decision-making are necessary, in spite of uncertain information

Current disasters (from reliefweb.int)

a street outside a hospital in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia with a large green neon sign that says covid-19
Covid-hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Photo: Martina Gustavsson

What we do

At the Centre for Research on Health Care in Disasters we conduct a wide range of research within the field of disaster medicine. Our researchers frequently draw on their experience of field work in disaster-stricken areas when conducting their research. We also teach several courses and an Erasmus Mundus Master programme.

In addition to our research and teaching, we also accept assignments and missions such as needs assessments of disasters, as well as evaluations of international humanitarian health relief. We also provide advice and analysis on health care response related topics involving decision-making following disasters.

We aim to

  • increase the capacity of the Swedish disaster response system by spreading knowledge and experience from global disasters, as well as acting as a standby for field work and for advising Swedish authorities
  • improve and strengthen both Swedish and international medical responses to major disasters, by creating and validating tools for needs assessments and evaluation
  • create conditions for improved trauma triage by studying methods for development and use of clinical prediction models
  • generate new knowledge on treatment of wound trauma
  • better understand ethical challenges and moral stress of disasters on the mental health of responders

Our history

The Centre for Research on Health Care in Disasters was founded in 2002. The centre has always been a part of the Department of Global Health (at the time called the Department of Public Health Sciences) at Karolinska Institutet. The department is an international and interdisciplinary environment, home to a copious amount of research on many areas in global public health. 

Since the start the centre has been headed by Johan von Schreeb; professor of disaster medicine at KI with over 25 years of experience working in disaster areas. His PhD was supervised by Hans Rosling, and the two were also part of the group that founded the Swedish branch of Médecins sans Frontières (MSF).

Collaborators & Partners

WHO

In 2017 the Centre for Research on Health Care in Disasters was named a WHO Collaborating Centre for Research and Training on Health Care and Public Health in Disasters. Being a WHO Collaborating Centre for Research and Training on Health Care and Public Health in Disasters means, among other things, that we:

  • Support the WHO in promoting the Emergency Medical Teams (EMT) - Global Health Emergency Workforce initiative
  • On WHO's request, develop and support capacity building within disaster medicine for EMTs working in vulnerable countries
  • Contribute to the WHO's work with health care systems and disasters, as well as protracted emergency situations

Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) Sweden

Our collaboration with Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) goes back a long time. Johan von Schreeb, the head of the Centre for Research on Health Care in Disasters, co-founded the Swedish branch of MSF in 1993. He has also served as chairman of the Swedish branch and worked in countless field operations over the years. He is not alone in his dedication to MSF's work. Several of members of our team have worked with MSF, and still do, in disaster-stricken areas around the world. At the moment we work with MSF in Lebanon, among other places. We also conduct training and education in collaboration with MSF Sweden, in particular for new doctors, nurses and other health professionals who are about to embark on field work. Our collaboration with MSF is one of the ways in which we constantly stay connected to the realities of day-to-day work on the ground when it comes to disaster medicine and global health.

Other collaborators

Health Emergency and Pandemic Science Center - we form part of a centre that was formed by KI in the summer of 2021. The center is virtual and aims to provide a way for universities and institutes of further education to quickly adapt to emergency health care and pandemic needs. 

Disaster Medicine Network Sweden - we initiated and now form part of a network consisting of six universities and research facilities who all work in the field of disaster medicine in Sweden. The aim is to be a forum for gathering and sharing research, developments and training. The network is introduced in more detail in an article in the industry magazine Läkartidningen (in Swedish).

TEAMS project - we are a TEAMS project partner. In 2016, the EU launched the European Medical Corps (EMCs) to help mobilise medical teams and equipment for emergencies inside and outside the EU. This followed a previous initiative, to create Emergency Medical Teams (EMTs), under the umbrella of the WHO. The purpose of the initiative is to improve the quality and accountability of international emergency medical teams responding to disasters through the definition of capacities, services and minimum deployment standards.

Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) - we act in an advisory role to the national board, as a centre for research (kunskapscentrum) in the field of global disaster medicine and international missions. Among other things, our role includes submitting reports and analysis to the board every year. Please visit our page about our work with the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) to find out more about what our role entails and read our latest reports.

National expert bodies

Karolinska University Hospital

Interdisciplinary research networks within the field of disasters 

Linköping University

University of Bergen

University of Trondheim - NTNU

University of Piemonte (CRIMEDIN)

University of Nicosia

University of Oviedo

National Institute of Public Health in Cambodia

TATA Institute India

Annual reports from the centre (in Swedish)