Global Disaster Medicine - Health Needs and Response – Johan von Schreeb's research group

We are an interdisciplinary research group in global disaster medicine. Our work involves research, teaching, policy advice, external monitoring, and field work in disasters. Our aim is to contribute to strengthening and improving Swedish and international health care response in the event of major disasters. We are a WHO Collaborating Centre and a research centre for the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare. We also collaborate frequently with the Centre for Health Crises at KI.

News and updates

What we do

Houses that have been destroyed in an earthquake. Rubble in the street
Destruction in Adyiaman, Turkey, following the earthquake Photo: Johan von Schreeb

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 or occur naturally
  • Global disaster medicine is a medical subject that focuses on planning and preparing healthcare in disasters, wars and pandemics, with the intention of minimising mortality and morbidity
  • Due to the lack of resources that characterise disaster medicine, tough prioritising and clear decision-making are necessary, in spite of limited and uncertain information

Current disasters (from

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

What we do

At Global Disaster Medicine - Health Needs and Response we conduct a wide range of research in the field of disaster medicine. Our researchers frequently draw on their experience of field work in disaster-stricken areas in their academic work. We also teach several courses and an Erasmus Mundus Master programme.

In addition to our research and teaching, we also conduct analyses, compile reports and evaluations on needs assessments in disasters, improved disaster preparedness, evaluations of international humanitarian health relief and national disaster response, and much more. Furthermore, we 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 being ready to work in ongoing disaster and to advise 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

Global Disaster Medicine - Health Needs and Response was founded in 2002 (until October 2023 we were called The Centre for Research on Health Care in Disasters and were part of the research group Health Systems and Policy). 

We have always been a part of the Department of Global Public Health (when we were founded it was 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 aspects of global public health. 

Our research group leader Johan von Schreeb; professor of disaster medicine at Karolinska Institutet, who has over 25 years of experience working in disaster areas, has lead the group since its foundation. His PhD was supervised by the renowned professor of international health at Karolinska Institutet, Hans Rosling

Collaborations & Partners

Centre for Health Crises 

We collaborate closely with the Centre for Health Crises, which was initiated by Karolinska Institutet in the summer of 2021. The centre works inter-disciplinary, with an holistic approach to health crises. By way of research, education, and expert advice, it wants to contribute to improved preparedness and ability to handle future health crises, in particular by building the next generation of health crises experts. The Centre for Health Crises is also headed by Professor Johan von Schreeb. 


In 2017 Global Disaster Medicine - Health Needs and Response 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 co-founded the Swedish branch of MSF in 1993. He has also served as chairman of the Swedish branch and worked in numerous field operations over the years. Our research specialist, Anneli Eriksson, has also chaired the Swedish branch of the organisation. They are not alone in their involvement with MSF. 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 collaborations


Selected publications

All publications from group members

Staff and contact

Group leader

All members of the group

Profile image

Åsa Svensson

Communications officer

General inquiries

Visiting address

Karolinska Institutet, Department of Global Public Health, floor 3, the Widerströmska building, Tomtebodavägen 18, 171 65 Solna, Sweden

Postal address

Karolinska Institutet, Department of Global Public Health, 171 77 Stockholm, Sweden

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Content reviewer:
Åsa Svensson