Environmental and Occupational Epidemiology

Environmental stressors such as outdoor air pollution, heat waves and infectious agents contribute significantly to the global burden of disease. For many stressors such as electromagnetic fields considerable uncertainty regarding health effects remains. Environmental epidemiology has made major contributions to assessing the magnitude of health risks of various environmental stressors.

This advanced course will teach you about the principles and important issues of environmental epidemiology. The main methodological topics include time series studies, spatial epidemiology (including ecological studies), exposure assessment (use of GIS, Exposome), measurement error (impact and correction methods) and advanced data analyses (shape of concentration response functions, case-cross-over and panel studies). Additionally, the course provides state-of the art overviews of health effects of selected topics like climate change, outdoor air pollution and electromagnetic fields.

Environmental and Occupational Epidemiology is one of the online courses offered within MSc Epidemiology Postgraduate Online; the online MSc program in Epidemiology offered by Utrecht University, University Medical Center Utrecht, MSc Epidemiology and Elevate.

Learning Objectives

By the end of the course, you will be able to:

  • Apply epidemiological designs frequently used in environmental epidemiology and less in other applications of (clinical) epidemiology
  • Understand new designs for environmental exposure assessment
  • Assess the impact of measurement error in exposure on effect estimates and use correction methods
  • Perform specific epidemiological analyses used in recent environmental epidemiology studies

Course Topics

Besides basic introductions in exposure assessment and environmental epidemiology, the following main topics will be covered:

  • Time series studies. We will illustrate principles of time series studies, adjustment for (time varying confounders, data analysis (including non-linear effects of temperature, panel studies) and interpretation of effects estimates (short-term mortality displacement) 
  • Spatial epidemiology. We will discuss principles of spatial epidemiology including applications in mapping, cluster detection and especially use in causal relationships between environment and health (ecological studies). Interpretation of mortality impacts will be discussed (body counts, life years lost)
  • Measurement error. The impact of measurement error in exposure, health outcomes and confounders on effect estimates in epidemiological studies will be discussed using basic texts and more advanced texts (e.g. in time series studies). Options to limit bias due measurement error including grouping strategies and statistical correction methods will be illustrated.
  • Exposure assessment in epidemiology. Basic principles will be covered. The use of geographic information systems to assess exposure for large populations will be explained. The use of omics (Exposome) and new technologies (Smartphone) to assess exposure at the individual level
  • Special topics presenting up-to date overviews of selected environmental stressors, including climate change, outdoor air pollution, infectious diseases, electromagnetic fields, interventions)

Learning Methods

The whole course will take place online. The following learning methods will be used:

  • Web lectures
  • Reading articles guided by questions
  • Online discussion forums
  • Individual assignments
  • Wikis
  • Computer assignments with actual data

Course Deadlines

Week 0
Sunday before start date - introduce yourself

Week 1
Friday – complete step 1 assignment Learning Unit 1.7
Sunday – complete Learning Unit 1

Week 2
Monday – complete step 2 assignment Learning Unit 1.7
Sunday – complete Learning Unit 2

Week 3
Sunday – complete Learning Unit 3

Week 4
Sunday – complete Learning Unit 4

Week 5
Sunday – complete Learning Unit 5

Week 6
Sunday – submit final assignment & complete Learning Unit 6


To successfully complete this course, you need to actively participate in the discussion forums and complete the learning  assignments, including:

  • Individual and group assignments
  • A final assignment: an essay (review of recent paper). The deadline for the completion of this assignment will be announced as soon as possible. 


As this is a university course, it is covered by academic accreditation. Upon successful completion of this course, you will receive a recognized certificate from Utrecht University.

Entry Requirements

To enroll in this course, you need:

  • A Bachelor’s degree
  • Sufficient proficiency in English reading and writing.
  • Access to and experience with the statistical programs SPSS and R
  • Basic knowledge of epidemiology and statistics (please contact an Elevate coordinator when in doubt).

Please note
As Environmental Epidemiology is an online course, you do need access to an internet connection in order to be able to follow lectures, complete assignments and communicate with fellow participants.

Course staff

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Pick a date for this course:
(Enrollment deadline: 16 February 2020 - 23:59 CET)
246 days left.

Quick overview

  • 17 Feb 2020 – 29 Mar 2020
  • 6 weeks
  • 14 hrs/wk
  • Academic Certificate
  • 3.0 EC
  • Online
  • English
  • Web lectures, exercises, group discussions
  • Desktop, Laptop, Smartphone, Tablet
  • 1500

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