Scientific Overviews In Epidemiology

Course Number
5400 (Epidemiology)
Course Instructor(s)
Liane Macdonald, France Gagnon, Erin Hobin

Course Description

Course Breakdown

  • Part 1: Evidence and techniques for assessing its epidemiological credibility.
    • Weeks 1 through 8 contains a series of 7 sessions to help students learn about the nature of evidence and different ways to conceptualize it epidemiologically. There are no universal truths here. The course looks for students to critically review both the tools provided and the articles presented in order for them to decide which evidence is best to use in public health.
  • Part 2: Using the evidence in public health practice.
    • Weeks 9 through 13 contains a series of 5 sessions to help students learn about different ways to apply evidence in public health practice.  While it might be academic to say that “we need more research”, public health staff have to make decisions using the best evidence available. This series of sessions will be given by public health practitioners who make such decisions on a regular basis. Students are expected to engage with the presenters and learn from their experience.
  • Part 3: Keeping up to date.
    • This final session simply gives students a chance to learn techniques about keeping upto date in a world of rapidly evolving health information. The half‐life of most medical information is about 8 years and it is anticipated that this half‐life also appliesto public health. Since each individual has his/her own learning style, students are expected to apply these techniques to their own individual situation.

Course Objectives

  • Discuss the concepts of evidence as applied to public health practice and research:
    • Levels of evidence,
    • Pros and cons of evidence hierarchy and appraisal tools,
    • Dealing with conflicting evidence,
    • Need to make a decision on limited available evidence (minimize harms andmaximize benefits).
  • Identify the major sources of evidence to answer public health questions by:
    • Searching the published literature for peer reviewed literature,
    • Searching the synthesized literature,
    • Searching the grey literature for non-peer reviewed literature, and
    • Discussing the pros and cons of animal studies.
  • Critically appraise a scientific summary paper including:
    • Differentiate narrative reviews from scientific reviews,
    • Recognizing possible sources of bias in review articles,
    • Discussing the need to adapt one’s approach to the question under study (e.g. question predominantly related to causation versus intervention).
  • Describe and interpret basic statistics on a meta-analysis.
  • Write a short scientific paper that summarizes the literature in a succinct form.
  • Work in teams

General Requirements

  • Introductory Epidemiology (CHL 5401)

Pre/Co-Requisite Courses