2017 Health and Humanitarian Logistics Conference Brings Together Hundreds to Affect Positive Change Across the Globe

Jun 6, 2017 | Atlanta, GA

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  • 2017 Health and Humanitarian Logistics Conference Group Photo

  • 2017 Health and Humanitarian Logistics Conference

  • Dr. Richard Brennan, Director of Emergency Operations, Emergencies Programme, World Health Organization (WHO), and keynote speaker

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Anne Stanford

Stewart School of Industrial & Systems Engineering



The challenges faced in the health and humanitarian sectors continue to increase in magnitude and complexity. The annual Health and Humanitarian Logistics (HHL) Conference, co-organized by the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Center for Health and Humanitarian Systems (CHHS), offers a unique platform for participants from a variety of organizations and sectors to discuss these challenges, share best practices, and explore potential collaborations, with the goal of improving efficiency and effectiveness, and leading to positive change. This year’s conference will take place on June 7-9, 2017, in Copenhagen, Denmark. Hosted by UNICEF at UN City, the conference will bring together more than 200 attendees from around the world for sessions and workshops led by practitioners and thought leaders and panel sessions focused on current challenges and solutions for health and humanitarian logistics.

Attendees will include representatives from health and humanitarian organizations, as well as governmental organizations, industry, and academia. Dr. Richard Brennan, director of Emergency Operations, Emergencies Programme, World Health Organization (WHO), will deliver the opening keynote address. Brennan, who led the Ebola Response from October 2014 to January 2016 as the Director at the WHO headquarters, now oversees the organization’s response to health emergencies globally as part of the new Emergencies Programme, which streamlines WHO’s role in emergencies globally, from prevention and preparedness to response, and from humanitarian emergencies to disease outbreaks.

With natural and manmade disasters affecting thousands of people every year, along with ongoing development needs in health, nutrition, education, and other key areas, the conference provides an open forum to discuss challenges and new solutions in global health delivery, disaster preparedness and response, and long-term development. 

There is a growing trend in the number, intensity, and impact of disasters on people. Earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, heat waves, and droughts in various parts of the world including Nepal, India, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Malawi, Mozambique, and Ethiopia are just a few recent examples. With serious health emergencies, such as the recent Ebola outbreak and the ongoing Zika challenge, trends indicate there may be even more and stronger emergencies in the future.

Adding to the challenges, the negative effect of emergencies is disproportionally high on low income or vulnerable populations. Some of the major disasters are man-made, and in recent years, due to conflict or war, an unprecedented number of people around the world have been forced to leave their homes. Over half of them are under the age of 18. Anytime there is an emergency, a variety of resources are needed to aid people and bring life to normalcy. Unfortunately, resources are often scarce in many of these locations, even during “normal” times.

Whether responding to an emergency or a long term development challenge, there are often many actors who play different roles, limited resources available, as well as variability, uncertainty, and potential disruptions in the demand and supply chains. These factors highlight the importance of logistics and supply chain management in these contexts.

“We hope that the presentations and the discussions at this conference will help us articulate the pressing challenges related to health and humanitarian systems and inspire new ideas and practices towards positive change,” said Pinar Keskinocak, CHHS Co-Director and William W. George Chair and Professor in the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial & Systems Engineering.

“Given the complexity of these problems, collaboration among different entities is essential in generating sustainable solutions. We hope that the conference will contribute towards new partnerships and synergies across many different organizations represented by the attendees.

According to Prashant Yadav, a 2016 conference participant and visiting scholar in global health and social medicine at Harvard University, “[The conference] was the right mix of deep technical discussions with some inspiring and thought-provoking keynotes… It is a great service to the community of humanitarian logisticians and the broader development sector supply chain community.”

When David Sarley, senior program officer in global health at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, attended the conference in 2015, he said, “In addition to the great quality of the presentations themselves, it is the richness of dialogue taking place in the side sessions that is most valuable… there are many more conversations to be continued from what was started here.”

The Health and Humanitarian Conference series is organized each year by the Center for Health & Humanitarian Systems (CHHS) at Georgia Tech in partnership with INSEAD, MIT, and Northeastern University, with generous support from The UPS Foundation, a premier sponsor for the conference for the past nine years, as well as other key corporate and organizational sponsors including Imperial Logistics, Johnson & Johnson, the William David Institute at the University of Michigan, and the Partnership for Supply Chain Management.