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Johns Hopkins University

Infectious Disease Transmission Models for Decision-Makers

Johns Hopkins University via Coursera


During the COVID-19 pandemic, both the promise and perils of using infectious disease transmission models to make public health policy decisions became clearer than ever. Optimal use of modeled output requires that public health policy makers be informed consumers of models, that they understand the strengths and limitations of possible approaches, and they know the right questions to ask about the vulnerabilities of the model results. This course aims to provide anyone who makes decisions about public health policies and programs with a clear understanding of how infectious disease transmission models work, the various types and functions, and how they can be appropriately used to make decisions. There is no requirement that students have any prior background in infectious disease models and the course does not include any equations. Anyone with a basic background in public health and infectious diseases with an interest in learning more about infectious disease models will benefit from this course. In this course, participants will review the basics of infectious disease transmission models, including comparisons to other types of predictions used in daily life and an overview of the key components of a model and modeling structure. Next, participants will delve into the types of infectious disease models: forecasting, inferential, and theoretical models. Then, participants will learn about assessing whether a model is useful, reasonable and relevant, as well as the vulnerabilities of these models. These concepts will be applied to case studies of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa from 2014-2016 and the COVID-19 pandemic. The course will be rounded out with a review of how models inform policy decisions, including major sources of uncertainty for decision making. Learners who complete this course will have a broad view of infectious disease transmission models, how to assess the usefulness of a given model, and how these models inform policy decisions. Who should take this course? -Public health policy makers -Anyone interested in learning about how infectious disease transmission models can guide public health policy The development of this training was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Center for Forecasting and Outbreak Analytics. We are grateful to Coursera for waiving enrollment fees through 2025.


  • Basics of Infectious Disease Transmission Models
  • Types of infectious disease models
  • Assessing the Value of an Infectious Disease Transmission Model
  • Modeling and policy decisions

Taught by

Emily Gurley, PhD, MPH and Dr. Amy Wesolowski, PhD


5.0 rating, based on 1 Class Central review

4.8 rating at Coursera based on 511 ratings

Start your review of Infectious Disease Transmission Models for Decision-Makers

  • This material is short and sweet. While it will definitely not make you a full-fledged infectious disease transmission modeller right away, the concise material can effectively serve as an umbrella introduction to the techniques/practice, a primer for decision-makers and policy advocates to get up to speed on what modelling can or cannot offer, or both.

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