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Environmental Epidemiology

Course Number
5400 (Epidemiology)
Course Instructor(s)
Loren Vanderlinden, Elaina MacIntyre, Hong Chen, Stephanie Gower

Course Description

Much of both the current and projected future global burden of disease and injury is attributed to environmental sources of exposure e.g. contaminated water or air, or changes in environmental conditions e.g. climate change. Environmental epidemiologists have: determined whether increases in adverse health outcomes are attributable to environmental exposures e.g. cluster investigations; tracked down etiological linkages between environmental exposures-conditions and health status in particular populations; estimated the attributable burden both in the past and projecting into the future e.g. risk and health impact assessment to inform programs and policies; and increasingly, evaluated the impact of policy and program interventions aimed at reducing the environmental burden of disease. This environmental epidemiology course will include each of these activities in environmental epidemiology.

Preparation: Combination of readings e.g. electronic papers, book chapters, supplemented by student searches, web site consultation, lectures, & peer assessments (see next section).

Each session will start with a scan of environmental health issues which have surfaced over the past week (10-20 minutes), student’s perceptions of relevant stakeholders and evidence, and insights which environmental epidemiology might (or might not!) bring. After this, sessions will comprise different mixes of interactive discussion, presentations, and review of tasks by faculty, guests and students.

Course Objectives

These include the strengthening of framing, information, study design, data analysis & interpretation, application of results, assessment, and communication skills. See detailed syllabus for full listing.

Methods of Assessment

Critical Appraisal Report 25%
Major Paper – Study Design or Policy-Focused Paper 65%
Participation 10%

General Requirements

As a level-III course in the MHSc-MPH program of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health (DLSPH), this course requires pre-requisites:

1. At least one epidemiology course covering the building blocks of an epidemiological study i.e. population, exposure, outcome, covariates +/-intervention, analysis, and different epidemiological designs e.g. cross-sectional survey, cohort study. For DLSPH students, this will likely be CHL5401H Epidemiologic Methods I;

2. At least one biostatistics course covering quantitative analysis methods appropriate to epidemiology i.e. which can produce measures of association, risk or risk reduction. For DLSPH students, this will likely be CHL5201H Biostatistics 1 or another quantitative methods course;

3. Some knowledge, experience with or training in environmental health. Although harder to define, the instructors expect some basic understanding of types of exposure (e.g. chemical, physical,Biological) and pathways and routes of exposure (e.g. inhalation, ingestion, dermal, in particular populations e.g. children). Other courses treating environmental exposures, issues or policy more generally are available through the DLSPH Occupational and Environmental Health Program are of value (e.g.CHL5903H Environmental Health) or through the School of the Environment’s Environment and Health Collaborative Specialization (

Pre/Co-Requisite Courses