Credit points




Unit rationale, description and aim

Epidemiology is an integral area of practice that informs and supports public health action to prevent disease and promote the health of populations. Within this practice, students need to apply skills and knowledge to understand and analyse the causes and distribution of disease within populations to determine how best to respond to a situation. In this unit, students will acquire comprehensive knowledge of fundamental epidemiological concepts and methods, including study designs, measures of frequency and association, bias and confounding, data collection and management for public health monitoring and surveillance. Students will build an understanding of the importance and relevance of epidemiology to public health research and practice with an emphasis on patterns of disease distribution in Australian and international contexts, and further develop skills to be able to apply these principles within real world scenarios.

The aim of the unit is to develop knowledge, skills and understanding of epidemiological principles and methods for application to key practice areas such as: screening and diagnostic test evaluation; critical appraisal of epidemiological research articles and systematic reviews; social/behavioural epidemiology and chronic disease.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the Attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

Learning Outcome NumberLearning Outcome Description
LO1Describe epidemiological concepts and methods and their importance to public health practice
LO2Identify, calculate and interpret epidemiological measures
LO3Compare and contrast major epidemiological study designs, especially in relation to appropriateness of study design, major features, strengths/limitations and interpretation of results
LO4Assess epidemiological information and integrate epidemiological concepts and methods to public health practice, such as screening programs, disease surveillance and research
LO5Critically appraise epidemiological research or evaluation of a public health program, particularly in relation to study design and inferences made from results


Topics include: 

Principles of epidemiology 

  • Fundamental epidemiological concepts, data sources and methods 
  • Measurement of exposure and risk of disease 
  • Measures: including rates, odds ratios, relative risk, attributable risk, lifetime risk (and others) 
  • Bias, confounding: types (e.g. measurement, selection), minimization  
  • Levels of evidence in quantitative research 
  • Observational and experimental study designs: cross sectional studies, case-control studies, case-crossover studies, nested case-control studies, case-cohort studies, prospective and retrospective cohort studies, randomised control trials, ecological studies 


Applied epidemiology 

  • Disease prevention and treatment: screening and diagnostic test evaluation 
  • Specialised epidemiology: social, behavioural, clinical and infectious disease  
  • Critical appraisal of epidemiological research 
  • Systematic reviews of health interventions: methods, data extraction and analysis, interpretation 


Practical epidemiology 

  • Application of epidemiology in public health practice: role in needs assessment, impact evaluation and health policy 
  • Health protection: monitoring and surveillance, notifiable diseases and legislative requirements 
  • Practice scenarios: contact tracing and notification (e.g. STIs) 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

PUBH621 is offered in both multi-mode and online mode. 

The unit uses an active learning approach to support students in their learning as they gain knowledge and understanding of epidemiology, associated health research, and applications of epidemiology in public health practice. The unit delivery comprises online material and tutorials. In multi-mode, tutorials are delivered on-campus whilst in online mode tutorials are delivered via remote learning technologies (e.g. Zoom). All learning material is available online for students to progressively work through over the teaching period. These include lecture content; online readings, and self-directed learning activities. Tutorial/laboratory sessions will focus on analysis of simulated public health material to provide context to student analysis and interpretation and an authentic learning experience. Discussion forums are available to post any questions or comments that students have about module content. Tutorials provide students with the opportunity to engage in peer learning to deepen their understanding while receiving tutor support and guidance. Students are expected to take an active approach to their learning as they engage in the online material and participate in tutorial discussions.

The unit material comprises four modules, first introducing students to fundamental concepts of epidemiology which students will later build on and integrate with practical public health applications. Module 1 introduces students to epidemiology concepts, measures of disease, descriptive studies, making links between exposures and disease, analytic studies, bias and causation. Students will build on these fundamentals in modules 2-3 as they learn about integrating epidemiological knowledge in practical applications such as screening tests and disease surveillance. Module 4 culminates in enabling students to apply their learning of earlier modules to design a project proposal from an epidemiological perspective.

Assessment strategy and rationale

PUBH621 has three assessment tasks designed to introduce students to a range of applied epidemiology activities, and to demonstrate achievement of each unit learning outcome and develop graduate attributes consistent with University assessment requirements Assessment task 1 assesses knowledge of fundamental epidemiology concepts and interpretation of measures within a given research article. Assessment tasks 2 and 3 then assess the student’s ability to assimilate and apply epidemiological knowledge developed through the unit to a simulated public health activity (AT2) and critically appraise epidemiological research or evaluate a public health program (AT3).

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning Outcomes

Assessment 1: 

Written Task

Short answer questions on a research article



Assessment 2: 

Written Task Simulated contact tracing and

exposure assessment



Assessment 3:  

Evaluate a public health program.



Representative texts and references

Abramson, J.H. & Abramson, Z.H. (2008) Research methods in community medicine: surveys, epidemiological research, programme evaluation, clinical trials (6th ed.). Wiley.

Baumgartner, T.A. & Hensley, L.D. (2006). Conducting and reading research in health and human performance (4th ed.). McGraw-Hill.

Boden, R., Kenway, J. & Epstein, D. (2005) Getting started on research. SAGE.

Bowling, A. & Ebrahim, S. (2005). Handbook of health research methods. Open University Press.

Coughlin, S.S., (2009) Ethics in epidemiology and public health practice: collected works (2nd ed.). American Public Health Association.

Gordis, L., & Forgione, L. (2019). Epidemiology (6th ed.). Elsevier.

Hulley, S.B., Cummings, S.R. Browner, W.S., Grady, D.G. & Newman, T.B. (2013). Designing clinical research (4th ed.). Woulters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research 2007 (updated 2018) The National Health and Medical Research Council, the Australian Research Council and the Australian Vice-Chancellors’ Committee. Commonwealth of Australia Canberra. Available for download from: 

von Elm, E. & Egger, M. (2004). The scandal of poor epidemiological research: Reporting guidelines are needed for observational epidemiology. British Medical Journal, 329(7471), 868-869. doi: 10.1136/bmj.329.7471.868.

Webb, P. & Bain, C. (2017). Essential epidemiology: An Introduction for students and health professionals (3rd ed.). Cambridge University Press [ACU ebook].

Have a question?

We're available 9am–5pm AEDT,
Monday to Friday

If you’ve got a question, our AskACU team has you covered. You can search FAQs, text us, email, live chat, call – whatever works for you.

Live chat with us now

Chat to our team for real-time
answers to your questions.

Launch live chat

Visit our FAQs page

Find answers to some commonly
asked questions.

See our FAQs