PUB HLTH 7075 - Introduction to Epidemiology

North Terrace Campus - Semester 2 - 2020

The aim of this course is to give students a grounding in the basic concepts of epidemiology. Students will gain knowledge about: measuring and interpreting patterns of disease occurrence; routine sources of data, their strengths and limitations; study designs used in epidemiology and when to apply them; epidemiological models of causation; and will begin to critically appraise epidemiological literature with reference to issues of study design and interpretation of results.

  • General Course Information
    Course Details
    Course Code PUB HLTH 7075
    Course Introduction to Epidemiology
    Coordinating Unit Public Health
    Term Semester 2
    Level Postgraduate Coursework
    Location/s North Terrace Campus
    Units 3
    Contact Up to 2 hours per week
    Available for Study Abroad and Exchange N
    Incompatible PUB HLTH 7075OL, PUB HLTH 7075UAC, PUB HLTH 4275, BIOSTAT 6000
    Course Description The aim of this course is to give students a grounding in the basic concepts of epidemiology. Students will gain knowledge about: measuring and interpreting patterns of disease occurrence; routine sources of data, their strengths and limitations; study designs used in epidemiology and when to apply them; epidemiological models of causation; and will begin to critically appraise epidemiological literature with reference to issues of study design and interpretation of results.
    Course Staff

    Course Coordinator: Ms Jacqueline Parsons

    Course Coordinators: Dr Angela Gialamas, Associate Professor Lisa Smithers

    Phone: +61 8 8313 0962
    Location: Level 9, AHMS Building

    Phone: +61 8 8313 0546
    Location: Level 9, AHMS Building

    Lecturer:  Professor John Lynch
    Phone: +61 8 8313 6541
    Location: Level 9, AHMS Building

    Tutor:  Pedro Henrique Ribeiro Santiago
    Phone: +61 8 8313 2588
    Location: Level 9, AHMS Building

    Course Timetable

    The full timetable of all activities for this course can be accessed from Course Planner.

    Timetable details are located on MyUni.
  • Learning Outcomes
    Course Learning Outcomes
    1 Demonstrate an understanding of routine sources of data used in descriptive epidemiology, and appreciate their strengths and limitations accordingly;
    2 Outline epidemiological measures of disease occurrence, calculate basic measures and describe patterns of disease occurrence;

    3 Correctly calculate and apply absolute and relative measures of risk;
    4 Differentiate epidemiological study designs, recognise the most appropriate circumstances in which to use each design, and describe the measures of disease occurrence that can be generated using each design;
    5 Recognise potential threats to correctly interpreting results from epidemiological studies, and identify those most relevant to each study design;
    6 Distinguish the difference between association and causation, and appreciate relevant issues in inferring causation from observational designs;
    7 Demonstrated ability to review and critically appraise observational studies;
    8 Summarise the principles of screening and the conditions under which a screening program would be most appropriate and cost-effective.
    University Graduate Attributes

    This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attribute(s) specified below:

    University Graduate Attribute Course Learning Outcome(s)
    Deep discipline knowledge
    • informed and infused by cutting edge research, scaffolded throughout their program of studies
    • acquired from personal interaction with research active educators, from year 1
    • accredited or validated against national or international standards (for relevant programs)
    2, 5, 6, 7, 8
    Critical thinking and problem solving
    • steeped in research methods and rigor
    • based on empirical evidence and the scientific approach to knowledge development
    • demonstrated through appropriate and relevant assessment
    3, 5, 7, 8
    Teamwork and communication skills
    • developed from, with, and via the SGDE
    • honed through assessment and practice throughout the program of studies
    • encouraged and valued in all aspects of learning
    1, 4, 7, 8
    Career and leadership readiness
    • technology savvy
    • professional and, where relevant, fully accredited
    • forward thinking and well informed
    • tested and validated by work based experiences
    3, 8
    Intercultural and ethical competency
    • adept at operating in other cultures
    • comfortable with different nationalities and social contexts
    • able to determine and contribute to desirable social outcomes
    • demonstrated by study abroad or with an understanding of indigenous knowledges
    4, 5, 7, 8
    Self-awareness and emotional intelligence
    • a capacity for self-reflection and a willingness to engage in self-appraisal
    • open to objective and constructive feedback from supervisors and peers
    • able to negotiate difficult social situations, defuse conflict and engage positively in purposeful debate
  • Learning Resources
    Required Resources
    The textbook for the course is:
    Webb P, Bain C, Page A. Essential Epidemiology: An introduction for Students and Health Professionals. 3rd edition. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2017.

    The textbook is available as an e-textbook from the University library. There are a small number of hard copies of the textbook that are available for borrowing.  

    Other relevant reading material may be provided during the course in the form of book chapters, journal articles (both recently published and seminal), and links to websites.
    Recommended Resources

    Other Resources: Epidemiology Textbooks
    There are many introductory epidemiology texts. Reading a text other than the set text can be helpful if a topic seems unclear or difficult – a different explanation and different examples can be illuminating. Some recommended texts for learning about epidemiology are described below.

    1. Rothman K. Epidemiology: An Introduction. 2nd edition.  Oxford, UK. Oxford University Press, 2012.
    This is a small introductory-level book that provides good explanations of epidemiological concepts.

    2. Szklo M, Nieto FJ. Epidemiology: Beyond the Basics. 3rd edition.  MA, USA. Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2014.
    This text digs a little deeper into epidemiological concepts.

    Other Resources: Statistical Textbook
    If you are need of support for statistical concepts, a good entry-level textbook is:
    3. Kirkwood BR, Sterne JAC. Medical Statistics. 2nd edition. MA, USA. Blackwell Publishing, 2010.

    Other Resources:  Epidemiology Journals
    Many journals also specialise in epidemiological research and you have access to the University's journal collection.  Some good epidemiological journals include:
    • The International Journal of Epidemiology
    • Epidemiology
    • American Journal of Epidemiology
    • Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology
    • Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.
    You could consider subscribing to a journal's Table of Contents, so that you can follow when new articles published in your area of interest.  This is a free service offered by most international journals.

    Online Learning
    We assume that you have access to student e-mail and that your address is the University of Adelaide student’s e-mail address that was assigned to you on enrolment.

    We will send messages to your official University of Adelaide student e-mail address and assume that you read your e-mail.  The announcements page of the MyUni site for this course will also display relevant notices from time to time.

    MyUni is the primary entry point to online learning at the University of Adelaide.  MyUni will be used to provide students with access to course materials, announcements, and other features to assist your study.  You can connect to MyUni on or off campus via the internet at:

    For enquiries about online education services, what’s available and access to MyUni, contact the Online Education Helpdesk at 8313 3000 or by email at

  • Learning & Teaching Activities
    Learning & Teaching Modes
    This course is delilvered in fully-flexible mode.  This means that the various components of this course can be taken online (externally) or in person (face-to-face; internal). International sudents are expected to attend face-to-face sessions.

    Lectures: Provide basic factual information, introduce and illustrate concepts.  Recorded lectures are provided for online students.

    Tutorials: Provide an opportunity to develop understanding of lecture material and clarify concepts. Tutors organise weekly online support sessions for students who take the course online.  University-support software (Zoom) is used for online tutorials. Zoom software is free.

    Practicals: A forum for application of lecture material. They provide an interactive forum to apply concepts from lectures and clarify understanding. Some practicals involve the use of statistical analysis software. For students taking the course online, we use Zoom software to help students with their practicals.

    Assignments: Opportunity for independent application and exploration of key concepts.

    Online exam: To assess the extent to which understanding has developed through the course and can be applied in novel scenarios.

    No information currently available.

    Learning Activities Summary
    • Types of Health States
    • Measuring Health States
    • Study Designs:  Intervention Studies
    • Study Designs:  Cohort and Cross-sectional Studies
    • Study Designs:  Case-control and Ecological Studies
    • Effect Measures
    • Random Error and P-values
    • Systematic Errors:  Confounding, Selection and Information bias
    • Critical Appraisal
    • Screening
    Specific Course Requirements
    Not applicable.
    Small Group Discovery Experience
    Small class teaching will be conducted in practicals and tutorials.
  • Assessment

    The University's policy on Assessment for Coursework Programs is based on the following four principles:

    1. Assessment must encourage and reinforce learning.
    2. Assessment must enable robust and fair judgements about student performance.
    3. Assessment practices must be fair and equitable to students and give them the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned.
    4. Assessment must maintain academic standards.

    Assessment Summary
    Assessment Task Assessment Type Weighting Learning Outcome(s) being addressed
    Assignment 1 Summative 25% 1, 2, 3, 6
    Assignment 2 Summative 25% 4-7
    Online, open book exam Summative 50% 1-8
    Assessment Related Requirements
    • Students are required to attend, and expected to actively participate, in practicals and tutorials. A sign-in sheet will be provided for each practical and tutorial for students to sign.
    • Students must submit or present all pieces of work to pass the course.
    Assessment Detail
    • Students are expected to prepare for tutorials by attempting the tutorial questions before the scheduled session.
    • Students are expected to actively participate in tutorials and practicals.
    • Students must submit both assignments to be permitted to sit the exam.
    Students are required to submit two assignments (weighting 25% for each, with a total of 50%). Assignment 1 will be provided to students and posted on MyUni around the start of Week 2, and Assignment 2 will be posted on MyUni around the start of Week 8. Students will be asked to use core epidemiological concepts, to correctly conduct disease measurements, and to critically assess and interpret epidemiological research findings from health literature.

    A two-hour open book exam will be provided at the end of course (weighting 50%) will assess your learning on the content of all lectures, tutorials and practicals. The exam will be completed online.
    All extensions for assignments must be requested, at the latest, by the last working day before the due date of submission.   Extensions will generally be granted only on medical or genuine compassionate grounds.  Supporting documentation must be  provided at the time a student requests an extension.  Without documentation, extensions will not be granted.  Late requests for extension will neither be accepted nor acknowledged.

    Only the Course Co-ordinator may grant extensions.

    Supporting documentation will be required when requesting an extension. Examples of documents that are acceptable include: a  medical certificate that specifies dates of incapacity, a police report (in the case of lost computers, car & household theft etc.), a  letter from a Student Counsellor, Education and Welfare Officer (EWO) or Disability Liaison Officer that provides an assessment of  compassionate circumstances, or a letter from an independent external counsellor or appropriate professional able to verify the  student’s situation.  The length of any extension granted will take into account the period and severity of any incapacity or impact  on the student.  Extensions of more than 10 days will not be granted except in exceptional circumstances.

    Late submission
    Marks will be deducted when assignments for which no extension has been granted are handed in late.

    All assignments, including those handed in late, will be assessed on their merits.  In the case of late assignments where no  extension has been granted, 5 percentage points of the total marks possible per day will be deducted.  If an assignment that is 2  days late is awarded 65% on its merits, the mark will then be reduced by 10% (5% per day for 2 days) to 55%.  If that same  assignment is 4 days late, the mark will be reduced by 20% (5% per day for 4 days) to 45%, and so on.

    The School of Public Health reserves the right to refuse to accept an assignment that is more than 7 days late.

    Assignments submitted after the due date may not be graded in time to be returned on the listed return dates.

    Students submitting examinable written work who request (and receive) an extension that takes them beyond the examination period are advised that there is no guarantee that their grades will be processed in time to meet usual University deadlines.
    If a student is dissatisfied with an assessment grade they should follow the Student Grievance Resolution Process  <>.  Students who are not satisfied with a particular assessment result should raise their concerns with Course Co-ordinator(s) in the first instance.  This must be done within 10 business days of the date of notification of the result.  Resubmission of any assignment is subject to the agreement of the Course Co-ordinator(s) and  will only be permitted for the most compelling of reasons.
    Course Grading

    Grades for your performance in this course will be awarded in accordance with the following scheme:

    M10 (Coursework Mark Scheme)
    Grade Mark Description
    FNS   Fail No Submission
    F 1-49 Fail
    P 50-64 Pass
    C 65-74 Credit
    D 75-84 Distinction
    HD 85-100 High Distinction
    CN   Continuing
    NFE   No Formal Examination
    RP   Result Pending

    Further details of the grades/results can be obtained from Examinations.

    Grade Descriptors are available which provide a general guide to the standard of work that is expected at each grade level. More information at Assessment for Coursework Programs.

    Final results for this course will be made available through Access Adelaide.

  • Student Feedback

    The University places a high priority on approaches to learning and teaching that enhance the student experience. Feedback is sought from students in a variety of ways including on-going engagement with staff, the use of online discussion boards and the use of Student Experience of Learning and Teaching (SELT) surveys as well as GOS surveys and Program reviews.

    SELTs are an important source of information to inform individual teaching practice, decisions about teaching duties, and course and program curriculum design. They enable the University to assess how effectively its learning environments and teaching practices facilitate student engagement and learning outcomes. Under the current SELT Policy ( course SELTs are mandated and must be conducted at the conclusion of each term/semester/trimester for every course offering. Feedback on issues raised through course SELT surveys is made available to enrolled students through various resources (e.g. MyUni). In addition aggregated course SELT data is available.

    This course now provides modern content on epidemiological thinking, a new textbook and revised practicals. The course was also updated to be offered fully online or face-to-face (i.e. flexible mode).

    Feedback indicated that students thought the best aspects of the refreshed course were the teaching methods, lecture sessions, up-to-date materials and links to journal articles for more difficult concepts. Students thought that the assessments were fair and the different formats for the assessments suited a range of learning styles. A few students did not like the time that the course was offered (4-6 pm) but because of University timetabling and the need to meet a very wide range of students/courses the time cannot be changed. In order to address this, offering the course in a fully flexible mode should go some way to making the course available to all students at times when they are free to study.
  • Student Support
  • Policies & Guidelines
  • Fraud Awareness

    Students are reminded that in order to maintain the academic integrity of all programs and courses, the university has a zero-tolerance approach to students offering money or significant value goods or services to any staff member who is involved in their teaching or assessment. Students offering lecturers or tutors or professional staff anything more than a small token of appreciation is totally unacceptable, in any circumstances. Staff members are obliged to report all such incidents to their supervisor/manager, who will refer them for action under the university's student’s disciplinary procedures.

The University of Adelaide is committed to regular reviews of the courses and programs it offers to students. The University of Adelaide therefore reserves the right to discontinue or vary programs and courses without notice. Please read the important information contained in the disclaimer.