Basic Epidemiological Concepts (Open Educational Resource)

This course has ended.


The Skills Online Program aims to help public health practitioners develop and strengthen their knowledge and skills in order to make better-informed public health decisions. The EPI1: Basic Epidemiological Concepts module is the first in a set of three modules on epidemiology in public health and is the only one currently being offered through PAHO's Virtual Campus for Public Health (VCPH). The module provides an introduction to some key epidemiologic concepts, allowing participants the opportunity to enhance their understanding of the fundamentals of epidemiology, and build skills in applying basic epidemiological principles to their work as public health practitioners.


Upon completion of the module, the participant will be able to:

  1. Define epidemiology, and describe its historical development and general applications.
  2. Outline and describe fundamental principles and concepts in epidemiologic approaches, including: causation, the epidemiologic triad, and the stages in the natural history of disease.
  3. Define surveillance, describe its importance in the public health context, and outline its objectives and cycle.
  4. Describe biomedical ethics and the main ethical theories important in public health, some of the ethical dilemmas that public health workers may face, and principles and safeguards used to address these.
  5. Provide examples of some of the concepts learned drawing from your own experience, and explain how they are or could be relevant.


To provide participants with the skills and knowledge to enhance their understanding of the fundamentals of epidemiology and apply basic epidemiological principles to their work as public health practitioners.


  • Lesson 1: Epidemiology – Definitions, Origins and Use
  • Lesson 2: Cause and Effect in Epidemiology
  • Lesson 3: The Natural History of Disease
  • Lesson 4: Public Health Surveillance
  • Lesson 5: Biomedical Ethics


Public health practitioners in the English-speaking Caribbean, including public health nurses, environmental public health professionals, health promoters, program managers, dental health practitioners, dietitians, policy analysts, public health veterinarians and other public health practitioners.


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Last update: 07/May/2024