Epidemiology study planner

Epidemiology study planner

Introductory Comments

Epidemiology is an analytical science concerned with the distribution and determinants of diseases and health states in populations, aimed at the improvement of health through the identification and removal of relevant risk factors. Epidemiology is not limited to controlling epidemics but to assessment and management of physical, mental and social well-being in living, working and recreational environments.

Just as clinicians use medical diagnosis to detect the causes of a disease in an individual, so health practitioners use epidemiology to detect the causes of disease or good health in populations. Epidemiology enables a type of detective work needed to identify risk factors for health, and to establish strategies for controlling these factors. Through historical records it is known that hospitals and Medicare play a relatively minor role in improving overall health of human populations, whereas lifestyle, environment, vaccination, socioeconomic factors and supportive technology play a major role. The science of epidemiology, which predates germ theory, has contributed much towards the reduction of acute diseases (such as bacterial and viral infections) in industrially developing communities, and today plays a major role in the reduction of chronic diseases (such as those related to unhealthy lifestyle) in industrially developed communities, while new or imported acute diseases remain an important area.

Epidemiology is one of the cornerstones of public, environmental, occupational, nutritional, veterinary, social and mental health service and is an essential practitioner subject for those wishing to improve the health status of populations, or to manage outbreaks of disease. It is also applied to protection of health and safety of workers, or assessment of the impact of new drugs.

There are many different role players in the population health sector but epidemiology provides a common tool and language used in public health investigations. The “epidemiological method” is a rigorous scientific approach with its own language, but once the basics are learned, it forms a bridge between many different disciplines working together to understand and promote public health. Students will be expected to apply themselves consistently and diligently in the unit to achieve knowledge and skills in the epidemiological method. As a reward for these efforts students will find the unit to be highly regarded during employment interviews, or when later working in professional teams. The unit is complementary to the Spring unit, Toxicology 300877, which has a similar study format and professional orientation, focusing on identification and management of chemical risk factors and their health outcomes.

This Learning Guide is a “mandatory” document; it is approved in terms of University Policy rules and students must conform with the requirements and conditions presented in the document. It is designed to establish ground rules for the program in order that the unit can be delivered in a systematic and orderly way, and is packed with important and useful points to guide student achievement towards sound internalisation of the discipline, and the achievement of good results. Please study the Learning Guide carefully as this will help you to address scientific and professional needs, gain marks and avoid pitfalls.

Students are expected to study 10 hours per week for 14 weeks, inclusive of the hours spent in class. Study material is delivered through the vUWS site and consists of this Learning Guide, epidemiological module notes specifically written for this unit, weekly MP4 lectures accessed through Panopto (ECHO Centre) on vUWS, the basic text and other readings. Readings (such as journal articles) are not specifically named so that students will explore and determine the resources they find most interesting and useful. There are two assessments, Assignment 1 which consists of unit exercises to be completed each week and then consolidated for submission (see Section 2, the Epidemiology Study Planner). By completing the work leading up to these exercises students will develop knowledge and skills relating to the epidemiological method, and be introduced to a useful “toolkit” of basic approaches for rapid epidemiological analysis. Assignment 2 is the Epidemiology Protocol, a plan designed by the student for the investigation or research of risk factors contributing to a specific disease or health state of interest or importance to individual students. The Protocol is submitted as a professional document which can be presented during job interviews or applied when working.

Please note that the Epidemiology Study Planner is the only part of the Learning Guide where target dates are given, and if there is conflict between any document and the Study Planner, the information in the Planner should be taken as correct. Please advise the Unit Coordinator conflicts or errors in any material, however, so that a high level of quality can be maintained.

Please never attempt a assignment exercise without first carrying out the necessary background work, including reading the relevant notes for that study module, consulting ebooks, carrying out internet research of useful state health and other relevant sites, and, if necessary contacting the lecturer where problems are experienced. An aim of the program is to produce students with sound professional knowledge and skills in epidemiology and students who short-cut this process by simply completing the assignments (particularly in a rushed fashion) are likely to show signs that they have not acquired an epidemiological vocabulary or knowledge of the epidemiological method. Most students find that with commitment to the unit they achieve well and a high percentage of distinction grades are awarded each year.

Epidemiology is an interesting, vocationally-useful subject which is accredited by Environment Australia and it is hoped the students will enjoy with a view to benefitting from it in their later career. An objective of the presentation of this unit is to ensure that diligent students achieve smooth and rewarding progress, so if you are becoming frustrated with the work at any stage, please contact the lecturer or unit coordinator at your earliest opportunity to remove the obstruction to your academic or personal progress.

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