Introduction to Epidemiology

Coronavirus (COVID-19) information

The Short Course Programme in Population Health Sciences has been temporarily suspended.


We anticipate opening bookings in late November 2020.

Information on this page relates to the last run of the course and is for reference only. 

Mailing List

Sign up to our mailing list to be notified when bookings reopen. 

We may need to make responsive changes to our future programme to follow the latest Public Health, Government and University guidance on coronavirus (COVID-19).

Please be aware that all information about short courses planned for 2021 is provisional and subject to change.

Course dates

13 - 17 January 2020

Course duration

5 days (approximately 27 hours of teaching, including 21 hours of lectures and 6 hours of practicals).
Registration will start at 9.30am on the first day, the course will finish by 3.45pm on the final day.

Course tutors

Professor Peter Blair (course organiser). The tutors are epidemiologists, clinicians and medical statisticians and have wide-ranging interests in clinical epidemiology. They have a breadth of experience in the design, conduct and analysis of epidemiological research and between them have over 1000 peer-reviewed publications.

Course aims 

The aim of the course is to provide a grounding in epidemiological study designs and measures of disease risk used in aetiological epidemiology and health services research. Participants will gain practical experience in study design and the appraisal of epidemiological literature.

Course objectives

By the end of the course participants should be able to:

  1. select the appropriate epidemiological study designs to investigate research questions;
  2. with expert advice, be able to design and undertake a case-control, cohort, ecological or cross-sectional study;
  3. list the strengths and weaknesses of randomised controlled trials (RCT) and case-control, cohort, ecological and cross-sectional studies;
  4. calculate incidence and prevalence and state which measure is most useful in a particular circumstance;
  5. calculate direct and indirect standardised mortality ratios and list advantages and disadvantages of each approach;
  6. explain confounding and interaction (effect modification);
  7. assess whether an exposure-disease association is likely to be due to chance, bias, reverse causality or confounding;
  8. explain the principles underlying sample size/power calculations; and
  9. critically appraise a published RCT, case-control, cohort, ecological or cross-sectional study.

Who the course is intended for

This course is intended for clinicians, researchers, public health specialists and other health care professionals who have only a basic understanding of epidemiology. Prior knowledge of basic medical statistics so that you understand findings published in peer-reviewed medical journals is important.

Course outline

Topics to be covered include:

  • exposure measurement and measures of disease occurrence (incidence, prevalence)
  • measures of exposure effect (risk, rate and odds ratios)
  • study designs (cross-sectional studies, case-control studies, cohort studies, ecological studies and randomised controlled trials)
  • bias and confounding
  • basic regression, interaction
  • sample size calculations
  • causal inference
  • epidemiology and public health policy

Please note: No prior knowledge of Stata is required but students are advised to bring a calculator. Parts of this course will be held in a computer lab, so you will not need to bring a laptop. 

Recommended reading

There is no specific course book and the course notes are fairly comprehensive. However, for anyone interested in reading further in this area the following are recommended:

A series of four articles published in the student BMJ provide an introduction to epidemiology. 

• Okasha, M. Epidemiology – who cares? StudentBMJ (Jul 2001) 9: 226-227
• Okasha, M. Epidemiological research. StudentBMJ (Aug 2001) 9: 277-278
• Okasha, M. Interpreting epidemiological findings. StudentBMJ (Sep 2001) 9: 324-325
• Okasha, M. The future of epidemiology. StudentBMJ (Oct 2001) 9: 370-371

An article on evidence-based medicine may also be of interest.

• Kell Williams, J. (2001) Understanding evidence-based medicine: A primer. Am. J. Obstet. Gynaecol. 185: 275-278

For more in-depth reading the following books are recommended:

• Bhopal Raj. (2002) Concepts of Epidemiology an integrated introduction to the ideas, theories, principles and methods of epidemiology. Oxford University Press.
• Harris M and Taylor G (2003). Medical Statistics Made Easy. Published by Martin Dunitz. (ISBN 1-84184-219-X)
• Hennekins C, Buring JE. (1987) Epidemiology in Medicine. Little Brown & Co.
• Kirkwood B and Sterne JS. (2003) Essential Medical Statistics. 2nd Edition Blackwell Science
• Last JM (2001) A Dictionary of Epidemiology. Oxford University Press.
• Rothman KJ. (2002) Epidemiology: An introduction. Oxford University Press
• Rothman KJ and Greenland S (eds). (1998) Modern Epidemiology. 2nd Edition Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. (A more comprehensive reference text)
• Sackett DL, Haynes RB, Guyatt GH, Tugwell P. (1991) Clinical Epidemiology. 2nd Edition Little Brown & Co.
• Walker D-M (2013). An introduction to Health Services Research. Sage Publications 2013. ISBN978-1-4462-4739-6

Standard of teaching was first class. Peter Blair presented a very clear statement of "what is epidemiology". All tutors today clearly demonstrated expertise in their field and ability to put it across.

Course feedback, February 2019

Course fee


More information on course fees, fee waivers and reduced prices.

Course venue

Bristol Medical School
Canynge Hall
39 Whatley Road
United Kingdom

Map and directions

Course refreshments

We provide morning and afternoon refreshment breaks, including tea and coffee, biscuits and fresh fruit.

If you have specific dietary needs we ask that you let us know in advance.

Lunch is not included. There are a range of local cafes and supermarkets nearby for students to purchase lunch. 


Information about accommodation in the area.


For further information please email

Edit this page