2010 Health and Humanitarian Logistics Conference

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In a year when the world's attention has focused on the vast and complex effort of humanitarian relief, more than 175 people committed to health and humanitarian support came together March 4-5, 2010, for the second annual Conference on Health and Humanitarian Logistics, held at the Georgia Tech Conference Center in Atlanta.

The Center for Health and Humanitarian Logistics, a unit of the Supply Chain and Logistics Institute (SCL) and a part of the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISyE) at Georgia Tech, organized the conference, which had as its main objectives to articulate challenges and successes in preparing for and responding to health and humanitarian crises, including disasters and long-term development, particularly on issues related to logistics.

An impressive gathering of participants from Canada, Croatia, Germany, India, Iraq, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, South Africa, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, and United States came together with an ambitious mission: to encourage learning and collaboration within and across institutions; promote system-wide improvements in organizations and the sector as a whole; identify important research issues; and establish priorities for nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), corporations, and the government in terms of strategies, policies and investments.

Representatives from the humanitarian sector, government and military, NGOs, foundations and private industry, and academia presented diverse perspectives in health and humanitarian challenges through keynote addresses, panel discussions, focused workshops, lunchtime group discussions, and interactive poster sessions (with over forty-five posters covering a broad set of research topics and applications).

Drawing on the success of last year's inaugural conference and from participants' feedback, ISyE professors Ozlem Ergun, Pinar Keskinocak, and Julie Swann, conference co-chairs and co-directors of the Center for Health and Humanitarian Logistics, expanded this year's conference from one day to one and a half days, adding a second keynote presentation and a third workshop.

Keskinocak, who is also the associate director for research of the Health Systems Institute, describes the conference as having been very "intense," with attendees being engaged in various ways during the entire time. "The panels provided a great overview of various topics," Keskinocak explains, "and the post-conference workshops allowed the attendees to go deeper in some of the topics, interact more closely, and exchange ideas with each other and the workshop presenters."

Panel discussions covered long-term development and sustainability; education, community preparedness, and capacity building; improving public health; and disaster preparedness, response, and post-disaster operations. Recognizing that global health is an area of great interest, the conference organizers added the public health panel this year and will continue to expand the Center activities in this area moving forward.

Those attending this year's conference were almost unanimous in their enthusiasm for the event and particularly liked the panels, citing the diversity of representatives and organizations and the different perspectives on a variety of topics.

The agencies, organizations, and businesses represented on the panels include governmental organizations (the Department of Homeland Security, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, USAID Food for Peace), nongovernmental organizations (CARE-USA, Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres, Focus Humanitarian Assistance, the Salvation Army, the World Food Programme), industry (Emergency Visions, Sterling Solutions, United Parcel Service, Walmart), academia (Disaster Resilience Academy of Tulane University, New England Center for Emergency Preparedness), and others (Clinton Foundation, U. S, Army Corps of Engineers).

Some of the perspectives covered within the panels include why collaboration matters, how to foster disaster-resilient communities, emergency management in the private sector, how disaster response can be a disaster within a disaster, warehousing for faster response, improving supply chains to meet people in need, and improving global health.

Public health and disaster management were two themes picked up in the keynote addresses. The first of the keynote speakers was Rear Admiral Scott Deitchman, associate director for Terrorism Preparedness and Emergency Response with the National Center for Environmental Health and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Rear Admiral Deitchman spoke about both the CDC's role in global health, highlighting the newly established Center for Global health, and shared insights from his own experience in Haiti.

Armond Mascelli, vice president for Disaster Services, Operations, with the American Red Cross, presented the conference's second keynote. Mascelli spoke about the spectrum of disasters, which range from emergencies to catastrophic events, and how to better position supply chain technology with NGOs engaged is disaster relief.

The continuous thread throughout the conference was the ongoing poster presentations, which gave individuals and groups a venue for sharing and discussing their research, projects, and activities in health and humanitarian applications.

Following the official conclusion of the conference, attendees were given the option of participating in one of three focused workshops that took place the afternoon of the second day. These workshops covered in greater detail pre-planning and response to large-scale domestic events, dynamic decision-making during emergencies, and preparedness and response in humanitarian logistics.

Already looking forward to next year's conference, the three co-chairs are encouraged by the momentum the conference has gained among participating organizations and countries. Those participating this year have stated that not only would they return next year, but they would also recommend the conference to others. This can only be good news for Ergun, Keskinocak, and Swann, who are striving, through the Center for Health and Humanitarian Logistics, to improve communications between NGOs, governments and private industry and present them with the research and practical applications to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their operations.

The Center's goal is to improve health and humanitarian logistics and ultimately the human condition by system transformation and organization effectiveness through education, outreach, and solutions. The Conference on Health and Humanitarian Logistics is moving the organizers further in realizing that goal.

The Center for Health and Humanitarian Logistics received support through the following conference sponsors: UPS Foundation, Kuehne+Nagel, Coca Cola Company, Focus Humanitarian Assistance, and several units from Georgia Tech including the Distance Learning and Professional Education Program, H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, Supply Chain and Logistics Institute, Health Systems Institute, College of Engineering, and College of Computing.

To learn more about the Conference presentations and workshops and to view videos of the panels, speakers and workshops, visit:
To learn more about ISyE's work in health and humanitarian logistics, visit:


  • Workflow Status:Published
  • Created By:Edie Cohen
  • Created:04/28/2010
  • Modified By:Fletcher Moore
  • Modified:10/07/2016