Introduction to Epidemiology
Full course description
The course is the first module in the Epidemiology and Health Sciences Research master’s programmes and will take place during a 5-day period in which the participants will be acquainted with the basic principles of epidemiological research. These include measures of disease frequency and exposure measurement, basic health measurement (clinimetrics), basic study design (including randomized controlled trials, cohort studies, case control studies, and cross-sectional studies), measures of association, validity and bias in epidemiological research, and a brief introduction of systematic literature review/meta-analysis.
The main aims of the course are to enable the participants to appreciate the basic concepts of epidemiology and critically assess epidemiological studies (e.g., research papers or research protocols). For this, use will be made of lectures, group discussions, and small practical individual or group assignments (e.g., questions or calculations related to the topic of the preceding lecture).
The course will be attended by students of the Epidemiology and Health Sciences Research master’s programmes. Besides these students, the course will be available as a stand-alone course for anyone who wants to become acquainted with basic epidemiological methods.
Knowledge and understanding
The course participant:
- Is able to distinguish between various measures of frequency of health outcomes (i.e. cumulative incidence, incidence density, point prevalence, period prevalence, life-time prevalence)
- Has basic knowledge of and insight into the principles of classifying health and disease outcomes
- Is able to distinguish between the various types of health measurement scales and the relevant aspects of the quality of a health measurement scale (i.e. validity, reliability, sensitivity-to-change)
- Is able to distinguish between various measures that quantify the strength of association between determinants and health outcomes (i.e. risk difference, risk ratio, rate ratio, attributable proportion)
- Is able to distinguish between various study designs in epidemiology (i.e. ecological studies, cross-sectional studies, cohort studies, case-control studies, and randomized controlled trials)
- Has knowledge of and insight into relevant aspects of the design/choice of the study population (e.g., inclusion and exclusion criteria, eligibility considerations, source for selection, recruitment procedures).
- Is able to identify the major advantages and disadvantages of the different epidemiological study designs
- Knows the difference between internal validity and external validity of epidemiological studies
- Appreciates the potential threat of bias (selection bias, information bias, confounding) to the internal validity of an epidemiological study.
- Appreciates the difference between confounding and effect modification (interaction).
- Appreciates various design measures to prevent bias or to adjust for bias in observational research (restriction, matching, standardization, stratified analysis, blinded measurement, use of independent data sources)
- Has basic knowledge of and insight into the main principles and procedures of diagnostic test (strategy) development and evaluation
- Is able to distinguish between the various types of literature review (e.g., narrative review, systematic review, meta-analysis) and to identify the advantages and disadvantages of these types of literature review
- Is able to identify the subsequent steps of a systematic literature review.
- The course participant is able to recognize and assess the general quality of an epidemiological study (e.g., a research protocol or a research paper)
Basic literature For this introductory course in epidemiology use will be made of basic epidemiology books: - Webb P, Bain C. Essential Epidemiology: An Introduction For Students And Health Professionals. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 2016. - Bouter L, Dongen M, Zielhuis G, Zeegers M. Textbook of Epidemiology. Springer Media / Bohn Stafleu Van Loghum, 2017 Suggestions for further reading: - Bowling A. Techniques of questionnaire design. Ch. 17. In: Bowling A, Ebrahim S, eds. Handbook of health research methods; investigation, measurement and analysis. Maidenhead: Open University Press, 2005. - Field A. Questionnaire design. [Internet] 2003. - Mokkink LB, Terwee CB, Patrick DL et al. The COSMIN study reached international consensus on taxonomy, terminology, and definition of measurement properties for health-related patient-reported outcomes. J Clin Epidemiol 2010;63:737-45. - Terwee CB, De Bot SDM, De Boer MR et al. Quality criteria were proposed for measurement properties of health status questionnaires. J Clin Epidemiol 2007;60:34-42. - Knottnerus JA, Van Weel C, Muris JWM. Evaluation of diagnostic procedures. BMJ 2002;324:477-80. - Viera A, Garrett JM. Understanding intraobserver agreement: the kappa statistic. Fam Med 2005;37:360-3. - Crombie IK, Davies HTO. What is meta-analysis? [Internet] 2009. Available at: http://www.medicine.ox.ac.uk/bandolier/painres/download/whatis/meta-an.pdf. Accessed: 6-4-2016. - Donksley PE, Brien SE, Turner BJ et al. Association of alcohol consumption with selected cardiovascular disease outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ 2011;342:d671.