This article, published in Medicine, Conflict & Survival, discusses human security as an evolving principle for organizing humanitarian endeavours in the tradition of public health. Human security places the welfare of people at the core of programmes and policies, is community oriented and preventive, and recognizes the mutual vulnerability of all people and the growing global interdependence that mark the current era. Health is a crucial domain of human security, providing a context within which to build partnerships across disciplines, sectors and agencies. These principles have been demonstrated in field programmes in which health-care delivery featuring multi-sectoral co-operation across conflict lines has been used to enhance human security. Such programmes can be a model for collaborative action, and can create the sustainable community infrastructure that is essential for human security.