Michael VanRooyen and the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI) team he directs are working hard to develop new ways to offset the miseries of humanitarian disasters. In a January 2012 Boston Magazine article titled “The Saving Game,” VanRooyen talked about how relief workers — if their efforts aren’t properly coordinated—can sometimes do more harm than good.

The article also outlined the overall goals of the seven-year-old initiative, cofounded by VanRooyen, associate professor in the Department of Global Health and Population at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), and Jennifer Leaning, HSPH professor of the practice of global health.

HHI “combines data-driven research, new technology, and fieldwork into a single academy designed to build a better humanitarian,” the article states. Goals include providing better, more practical training for would-be humanitarians; promoting better coordination, analysis and research to support humanitarian efforts; and using state-of-the-art surveillance technology to track potential crises before they happen.