Public Health Epidemiology

This course will enhance your understanding of public health epidemiology, the science upon which public health is based. Public health epidemiology involves describing and interpreting geographical and temporal patterns in population health, identifying prevention strategies, and estimating and evaluating the impact of risk factors and preventive measures on population health. It is therefore essential to have a thorough understanding of public health epidemiology if your work or study involves any public health-related issues. This course is therefore highly suited to epidemiologists in universities, hospitals, municipal health services and other governmental health organizations, and to PhD candidates working on an epidemiological or public health thesis.

Public health epidemiology: from basic principles to future trends

You will start by learning the basic principles of public health epidemiology, illustrated by the main successes in this field in the past. We will focus on important measures of population health, their interpretation and use in public health policy. You will learn how to calculate the effect of an exposure on life expectancy and what part of this exposure can be attributed to the development of a disease. You will also weigh and compare the effects of two prevention strategies: intervening in individuals at high risk for developing a disease, versus introducing preventive measures for the whole population. The societal, economic and health dilemmas involved in introducing population measures will be illustrated by the smoking ban. This online medical course will also cover the persistent socioeconomic and ethnic inequalities in health, including epidemiological and statistical methods, and you will learn the basic principles of how future trends in population health are modeled.

Public Health Epidemiology is one of the online medical courses offered as part of MSc Epidemiology Postgraduate Online; the online MSc program in Epidemiology offered by Utrecht University, University Medical Center Utrecht, MSc Epidemiology and Elevate Health

Learning objectives

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

  • Describe the typical features of public health and public health epidemiology
  • Weigh and compare the effects of high-risk versus population strategies for prevention

In particular, you will be able to:

  • Reproduce at least 5 different measures of population health, their interpretation and use in public health policy or practice
  • Calculate life expectancy from life-table data and construct survival curves
  • Describe dilemmas in the implementation of population measures for smoking reduction from a societal, economical and health perspective
  • Calculate the effect of exposure to risk factors on life expectancy and attributable fraction
  • Weigh and interpret the contribution of risk factors to population health
  • Describe types of input required to model future trends in population health
  • Describe the main underlying factors causing certain patterns in population health
  • Apply epidemiological methods to study ethnic and socioeconomic inequalities in population health
  • Interpret results from multilevel analysis to disentangle effects of a shared environment (contextual effects) and individual risk factors on population health

Course topics

  • General introduction into public health epidemiology and the effects of high-risk and population strategies for prevention on population health
  • Public health aspects of active and passive smoking to illustrate the general principles, with a special focus on the political, economical and individual perspectives on smoking reduction as a population strategy
  • Patterns in population health across regions or the world and across socioeconomic and ethnic groups
  • Projections of future population health and potential health gain by preventive policy measures

Learning methods

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

  • Web lectures
  • Group assignments (forums, wikis etc..)

Course Deadlines

Week 0
Sunday before start date - introduce yourself

Week 1
Thursday – Step 1 feedback assignment Learning Unit 1
Thursday – complete Learning Unit 1 (except feedback assignment)

Week 2
Monday – Step 2 feedback assignment Learning Unit 1
Wednesday – Step 3 feedback assignment Learning Unit 1 Wednesday – complete Learning Unit 2
Thursday – debate assignment Learning Unit 2

Week 3
Monday – Step 1 feedback assignment Learning Unit 3
Tuesday – complete Learning Unit 3 (except feedback assignment)
Wednesday – Step 2 feedback assignment Learning Unit 3
Friday – Step 3 feedback assignment Learning Unit 3
Sunday – complete Learning Unit 4

Week 4
Wednesday – submit take-home exam


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

  •    Individual and group assignments
  •    A final assignment.

The final assignment is not compulsory. However, if you want to receive the Course Certificate and the credits, it is obligatory to successfully complete the final assignment. You are allowed to redo the exam once. 



As this Public Health Epidemiology course 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 and the UMC Utrecht. 

Entry requirements

To enroll in this course, you need:

Please note
As this 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.

The entire course is also available offline.  For more information about this option, please visit the MSc Epidemiology website.

Course staff


Pick a date for this course:
(Enrollment deadline: 5 January 2020 - 23:59 CET)
204 days left.

Quick overview

  • 6 Jan 2020 – 26 Jan 2020
  • 3 weeks
  • 14 hrs/wk
  • Academic Certificate
  • 1.5 EC
  • Online
  • English
  • Web lectures, exercises, group discussions
  • Desktop, Laptop, Smartphone, Tablet
  • 785

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