Environmental & Occupational Epidemiology

Physical, chemical and (non-infectious) biological factors in the general environment and in the workplace contribute significantly to the global burden of disease. Examples of such environmental and occupational risk factors include outdoor air pollution, heat waves, pesticides and allergens and (non-)infectious agents. For other stressors such as electromagnetic fields uncertainty regarding their health effects remains. Environmental and occupational epidemiology has made major contributions to the assessment of the magnitude of the health risks from various environmental and occupational stressors. The evidence from the studies performed in environmental and occupational epidemiology is relevant for decision making regarding preventive action and ultimately protects public health.

Dr. U. (Ulrike) Gehring
Assoicate Professor in Environmental Epidemiology, Utrecht University
Quick overview
  • 6 weeks - 14 hrs / wk
  • Academic Certificate
  • 3.0 EC
  • Online
  • English
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Enrollment closes 10/02/2025 235 days left to apply
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Course description

This advanced course will introduce you to the principles and important issues of environmental and occupational epidemiology.

The main methodological topics include study designs for the assessment of short-term effects (time series studies, panel studies and case crossover studies) and long-term effects of environmental and occupational exposures (ecological studies, different types of cohorts and case-control studies), spatial epidemiology, exposure assessment (using measurements and models), measurement error (types, impact and correction methods) and advanced data analyses (time series including shape of concentration response functions, case-cross-over and panel studies).

Research methods will be illustrated with examples on current and emerging topics in environmental and occupational epidemiology.

Learning objectives

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

  • Apply epidemiological designs frequently used in environmental & occupational
    epidemiology and less in other applications of (clinical) epidemiology;
  • Understand new designs for environmental & occupational exposure assessment;
  • Assess the impact of measurement error in exposure on effect estimates and use correction methods;
  • Understand causal effect estimation in environmental and occupational epidemiology;
  • Appreciate the role of environmental psychology in studying risk perception and behavioral choices in the context of environmental risks and exposure;
  • Perform specific epidemiological analyses used in the fields of environmental & occupational epidemiology.

Course topics

Besides introductions to the fundamental principles of exposure assessment and environmental epidemiology, the following main topics will be covered:

  • Short-term effect studies. We will introduce study designs that are used to assess the short-term effects of environmental & occupational exposures such as time-series studies, panel studies and case-crossover studies. We will discuss major challenges of such studies, e.g. adjustment for potential confounders, non-linear relationships
  • Spatial epidemiology & long-term effect studies. We will discuss principles of spatial epidemiology including applications in mapping and cluster detection. We will also compare the use of different study designs that are used to assess the long-term effects of environmental and occupational exposure and introduce you to exposure-time response relationships.
  • Measurement error. The impact of measurement error in exposure, health outcomes and confounders on effect estimates in epidemiological studies will be discussed using introductory and more advanced texts. Statistical methods for measurement correction methods will be illustrated.
  • Exposure assessment in epidemiology. We will introduce the use of geographic information systems, empirical and deterministic models to assess environmental exposures for large populations and explain the fundamentals of occupational exposure assessment.

Theory will be illustrated with examples on current and emerging topics.


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

  • Individual and group assignments;
  • A final assignment related to a recent research paper on an environmental or occupational health


The course has been designed as an advanced course. We assume that students have:

  • Completed a bachelor’s degree;
  • Good proficiency in English reading and writing;
  • Basic knowledge of epidemiology and statistics;
  • Experience with the statistical software R.
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