Despite the global health community's historical focus on providing basic, cost-effective primary health care delivered at the community level, recent trends in the developing world show increasing demand for the implementation of emergency care infrastructures, such as prehospital care systems and emergency departments, as well as specialised training programmes. However, the question remains whether, in a setting of limited global health care resources, it is logical to divert these already-sparse resources into the development of emergency care frameworks. The existing literature overwhelmingly supports the idea that emergency care systems, both community-based and within medical institutions, improve important outcomes, including significant morbidity and mortality. Crucial to the success of any public health or policy intervention, emergency care systems also seem to be strongly desired at the community and governmental levels. Integrating emergency care into existing health care systems will ideally rely on modest, low-cost steps to augment current models of primary health care delivery, focusing on adapting the lessons learned in the developed world to the unique needs and local variability of the rest of the globe.