School of Public Health


EPI 511 Introduction To Epidemiology (4)

Epidemiologic methods for non-epidemiology majors. Focuses on research designs and methods to describe distribution and determinants of disease and health events in populations; uses quantitative and biomedical information to infer whether causal relationships exist between potential causes and disease in populations. Offered: A.

Autumn 2020

Line Number Section ID Credits Days/Times Room/Bldg Instructor
14921A4.0Tuesday, Thursday @ 10:30am - 12:20pmN/AWendy E. Barrington
For a complete listing of Epidemiology courses, their elective categories, and when they are typically offered, please see the Epidemiology Course Planning Sheet

Additional Course Details

This course will provide a comprehensive and accessible introduction to epidemiologic methods for non-epidemiology majors. We will focus on methods to describe disease frequency, measures of association between risk factors and disease, and related study designs. Students will learn to apply causal criteria and evaluate challenges to causal inference including bias and effect modification.  The goal of the course is to provide a strong methods foundation to support evidence-based practice as well as research in community and practice settings.

Topics Covered

Measures of disease frequency and association; study designs; causal inference, bias and effect modification; synthesis of evidence and application to research and practice; infectious disease and outbreak investigations; and chronic disease and screening.

Learning Objectives

At the conclusion of this course, the student will be able to:

  1. Define epidemiology as the study of the determinants of health and illness in populations and the examination of factors contributing to health promotion, disease prevention and the use of health services;
  2. Define and calculate measures of disease frequency and measures of association between risk factors and disease;
  3. Describe the major sources of bias (confounding, selection bias, and measurement error) within epidemiologic research;
  4. Evaluate effect modification;
  5. Apply criteria to support whether an association is causal;
  6. Describe the major epidemiologic research study designs and their advantages and limitations;
  7. Understand the basic terms and methods used in: (1) outbreak investigation and infectious disease epidemiology, (2) chronic disease epidemiology, (3) evaluation of screening tests, and (4) disease prevention and treatment trials;
  8. Describe how epidemiologic skills are applied in public health settings, specifically in the development and evaluation of public health programs or policies;
  9. Critically review the scientific literature, synthesize findings across studies, and make appropriate public health recommendations based on current knowledge;
  10. Identify public and private data resources available for epidemiologic studies and evaluate the quality, integrity, and comparability of various data sources; and,
  11. Apply ethical principles and cultural sensitivity when accessing, collecting, analyzing, using, maintaining, and disseminating epidemiologic data and information. 

Course Format

Lectures and TA discussion sections

How You Are Evaluated

Weekly assignments, quizzes, midterm, evidence synthesis (short paper), and final exam

Contact the Instructor

Wendy E. Barrington, PhD, MPH (
Gary Goldbaum, MD, MPH (