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Johns Hopkins University

Essential Epidemiologic Tools for Public Health Practice

Johns Hopkins University via Coursera


In order to make a difference in the health and well-being of a population, we must understand the burden of all problems and conditions that affect the population, as well as how well our efforts to mitigate these problems are actually working. This course provides you with some essential skills and tools that will enhance your ability to describe and understand the health of your community. The tools that epidemiologists use are in fact useful for all public health practitioners, including data scientists, program officials, agency leaders, and policymakers. Whether you are deeply enmeshed in your career and looking to augment your skills, or are looking to change career paths into the field of public health, this course will give you some of the practical knowledge and skills that we hope you can apply in your professional endeavors.


  • Role of Epidemiology in Public Health
    • We will start by discussing the definitions of public health and epidemiology and discuss what components of individuals and their lives that we must address in order to optimize their health and well-being. In this section, we will also introduce the hands-on exercise for this course.
  • Numeric Estimates in Epidemiology
    • In this module, we will examine the definitions for and sources of the core numeric values we need to describe the health and well-being of a population, which are numerators, the counts of an event or disease, and the denominator, the population from which events are drawn. We will then manipulate those numbers to derive ratios, proportions, and rates, which are core measures used to describe the burden of public health problems.
  • Depiction of Epidemiologic Data
    • In this module, we will explore the tool of data visualization, understand basic components of effective visualizations, and walk through practical exercises of identifying strengths and weaknesses of specific visualizations towards meeting their stated goals. You will then have the opportunity to create a data visualization from data regarding risk factors for common public health problems using the global disease-burden database of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
  • Basic Mapping of Epidemiologic Data
    • Maps and geographic information systems have become a cornerstone in public health and epidemiologic work in all communities. In this module, we will discuss how place matters in public health and how understanding the geographic distribution of a disease or risk factor is an important component of designing appropriate interventions. We will then discuss GIS as a tool for displaying spacial data and conduct a detailed exploration of how spatial data is stored and displayed by GIS software. You will download an open source GIS application known as QGIS, extract both spatial and epidemiologic data from the US Census Bureau, and create a map of your own.

Taught by

Aruna Chandran, MD, MPH


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4.7 rating at Coursera based on 2874 ratings

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  • This is an excellent introduction to the Coursera Specialization and I am looking forward to the succeeding courses.

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