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The impact of digital technology on health of populations affected by humanitarian crises: Recent innovations and current gaps

Lookup NU author(s): Reem Talhouk, Professor Patrick OlivierORCiD, Sara Armouch, Dr Madeline Balaam, Dr Hala Ghattas



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Digital technology is increasingly used in humanitarian action and promises to improve the health and social well-being of populations affected by both acute and protracted crises. We set out to (1) review the current landscape of digital technologies used by humanitarian actors and affected populations, (2) examine their impact on health and well-being of affected populations, and (3) consider the opportunities for and challenges faced by users of these technologies. Through a systematic search of academic databases and reports, we identified 50 digital technologies used by humanitarian actors, and/or populations affected by crises. We organized them according to the stage of the humanitarian cycle that they were used in, and the health outcomes or determinants of health they affected. Digital technologies were found to facilitate communication, coordination, and collection and analysis of data, enabling timely responses in humanitarian contexts. A lack of evaluation of these technologies, a paternalistic approach to their development, and issues of privacy and equity constituted major challenges. We highlight the need to create a space for dialogue between technology designers and populations affected by humanitarian crises.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Mesmar S, Talhouk R, Akik C, Olivier P, Elhajj IH, Elbassuoni S, Armoush S, Kalot J, Balaam M, Germani A, Ghattas H

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Public Health Policy

Year: 2016

Volume: 37

Issue: Suppl. 2

Pages: 167-200

Print publication date: 29/11/2016

Online publication date: 29/11/2016

Acceptance date: 02/04/2016

Date deposited: 17/03/2017

ISSN (print): 0197-5897

ISSN (electronic): 1745-655X

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan


DOI: 10.1057/s41271-016-0040-1


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