Red X iconGreen tick iconYellow tick icon


    Introduces the science of epidemiology, the study of the distribution and determinants of health and disease in human populations. Examines major health problems in New Zealand and globally.

    Epidemiology underpins all clinical disciplines and is the basic science of public health. The population-based perspective of epidemiology puts the clinical relationship into context by defining the social, behavioural and environmental factors that influence health and affect the risk of disease or injury. An early exposure to epidemiological methods and reasoning provides health science students with a common set of tools to think critically about the underlying causes of disease and injury and to consider how these can be prevented.

    A first-year paper in epidemiology acquaints students with study designs and the critical appraisal of research to form an important basis for evidence-based practice. This experience will inform and enrich students in the years that follow, regardless of the professional direction they take.

    About this paper

    Paper title Foundations of Epidemiology
    Subject Public Health
    EFTS 0.15
    Points 18 points
    Teaching period Not offered in 2024 (On campus)
    Domestic Tuition Fees ( NZD ) $1,173.30
    International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.
    HEAL 101, HEAL 192, HEAL 201
    Schedule C
    Arts and Music, Science
    From 2019, POPH192 replaces PUBH192 in the Health Sciences First Year course.
    PUBH 192 is suitable for students with an interest in health sciences and health-related topics.
    NCEA Level 3 is highly recommended.
    Teaching staff
    Course Convenor: Dr Helen Harcombe
    Teaching Fellows: Janine Tansley, Jessica Meiklejohn, Carly Collins
    PUBH 192 also has many guest lecturers who are specialists in their fields presenting lectures.
    Paper Structure

    PUBH 192 is structured into four modules, with tutorials associated with each module:

    • Module 1: The principles of epidemiology and public health
      • Tutorial 1: Patterns of disease and measuring population health
    • Module 2: Study designs for public health
      • Tutorial 2: Measuring associations in cohort and case-control studies
      • Tutorial 3: Randomised controlled trials and chance
    • Module 3: Critical thinking - questioning assumptions
      • Tutorial 4: Bias and confounding
    • Module 4: Epidemiology in practice
      • Tutorial 5: Critical appraisal


    Internal assessment is by two tests held during the course of the paper and contributes 35% to a student's overall final grade. The final examination at the end of the paper contributes 65% to a student's overall final grade, and a minimum mark of 45% in the final exam is required to pass this paper.

    Teaching Arrangements

    Students are expected to attend three 50-minute lectures a week. There are a total of 38 lectures over the semester. Course Convenors, Guest Lecturers, the Professional Practice Fellow and Teaching Fellows present lectures.

    The lectures are recorded, and audio podcasts and PowerPoint presentations are made available to students via Blackboard after the lecture. Students are also expected to attend five tutorials (1 hour and 50 minutes in length) during the course of the paper. There are no terms requirements for class attendance.

    PUBH 192 runs a drop-in help-desk service called 'tutor hours' staffed by PUBH 192 teaching staff. During tutor hours our staff are able to answer specific questions about paper content and concepts that you would like clarified. We strongly encourage students to use this opportunity to add to your learning.

    Tutor hours are held on the ground floor of the Wellcome building. The number of hours available and the number of Tutors available each hour will increase leading up to Test 1, Test 2 and the final examination. Students are not limited in the number of times they can attend tutor hours. Students are able to attend in small groups of individually.

    New material is developed and revised each year to add to the existing practice material. The material ranges from multiple-choice and short-answer questions through to aspects of critical appraisal of research papers. The material is time-released as it becomes relevant to what the students are learning in the paper via Blackboard.


    There is an essential textbook that covers much of the material in this paper. The textbook for 2018 is:

    • Webb P, and Bain C. Essential Epidemiology: An Introduction for Students and Health Professionals (3rd edition). New York: Cambridge University Press 2017

    The textbook for 2019 is subject to change.

    Graduate Attributes Emphasised
    Scholarship, Communication, Critical thinking, Cultural understanding, Information literacy, Research, Self-motivation, Teamwork, Lifelong learning.
    View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
    Learning Outcomes
    At the conclusion of this paper we expect students to be proficient in the skills listed below. As such, we focus on course competencies rather than the memorisation of specific objectives. In this paper you will gain the knowledge and skills to:
    • Describe the general patterns of health and disease in New Zealand and other countries
    • Use a public health model and disease framework to discuss approaches to improve the health of a population
    • Identify the major determinants that influence the health of populations and individuals
    • Understand and interpret basic epidemiological concepts, including measures of occurrence, measures of association and error
    • Understand and explain key components of various epidemiological study designs, including their strengths and weaknesses
    • Understand and apply the concepts of chance, bias and confounding and assess evidence for a causal relationship between a specific exposure and a health outcome
    • Utilise epidemiological methods to assess the quality of health information in the scientific literature and mass media


    Not offered in 2024

    Teaching method
    This paper is taught On Campus
    Learning management system
    Back to top