Spatial Epidemiology and Outbreak Detection

Code: PHDA04
Apply this course towards: Population Health Data Analysis

Course description

This course provides an introduction to methods in spatial epidemiology and outbreak detection. The focus is on application rather than theory: this is not a course in spatial statistics.

The course is structured sequentially to move from spatial exploration of health data, to quantifying spatial patterns and clusters, to spatial exposure assessment and, finally, to methods for assessing risk.

Broadly, the spatial epidemiology part of the course focuses on:

  • assessing exposures through the use of a geographical information system (GIS)
  • conducting small area health studies (ecological models)
  • incorporating spatial parameters into models for individual health analyses.

The outbreak detection part of the course focuses on visualization of spatial data, disease surveillance and the use of spatial scan statistics in cluster detection.

Learning objectives

  • Recognize when—and why—a spatial approach is required and the assumptions, strengths, limitations, and interpretations of different spatial methods used in health research.
  • Identify geospatial technologies and methods for epidemiology and cluster detection.
  • Choose an appropriate study design to address a specific spatial epidemiological question.
  • Visualize patterns of health and disease in place and time.
  • Analyze clusters and diffusion of disease to identify outbreaks.
  • Conduct small area and individual spatial epidemiology studies.
  • Critically interpret spatial epidemiology and outbreak detection methods.
  • Apply spatial epidemiology and outbreak detection methods to various population health research questions.


Admission to the Population Health Data Analysis Program and/or permission of the Faculty Advisor for stand alone course admission.

Completion of PHDA02 Epidemiological Statistics and PHDA03 Population Health and GIS or proven proficiency in basic GIS skills and fundamental Epidemiology skills as outline below:

  • Proven GIS skills through approved coursework (including short PopData Geospatial courses) or work experience
  • Working knowledge of epidemiology and biostatistics fundamentals, including regression, rates, risk ratios, and standardization

Note: If you are unsure about whether your existing skills meet our pre-requisites, please contact our coordinator at for further consultation.


If space is available, you may take PHDA04 as a stand-alone course for professional development. Non-certificate students must meet the same prerequisites as certificate students.

Minimum registration requirement

This course may be cancelled if the minimum enrollment requirement is not met by the registration deadline.

Our students say...

"The GIS courses, PHDA 03 and PHDA 04, provided the greatest benefits. They were excellent and introduced brand new skills for me. Prior to taking these courses I had some brief exposure to GIS within my Master's program and through the free online PopData courses. The PHDA 03 and PHDA 04 course labs were very detailed and instructional, offering good balance between theory and practice. The courses generally had enough materials I could take away to continue working independently."

-Sophy Zhang, Program Administrative Coordinator, Canadian Mental Health Association, BC Division

To see what other students are saying about this course, please visit

Registration details

You have already registered for this course.

View My account

This item is already in your shop cart.

View shop cart
Fee Tax Subtotal
{{ ::(fee.price | currency) }} {{ ::( | currency) }} {{ ::( | currency) }}
{{ ::(child.price | currency) }} {{ ::( | currency) }} {{ ::( | currency) }}
    Total {{ fee.totalFees | currency }}

Add to Shop Cart

Note: You will be asked to log in or create an account to register and pay for this course.

Having trouble registering online? Register by phone: 250-472-4747

You're already on the waiting list for this item.

Sorry, this section is full.

Online registration temporarily unavailable

Sorry, this course is not available for registration at this time.

This course is in progress. Please contact us for more details.

Online registration is closed for this course. You may still be able to register by phone. Call 250-472-4747 to find out.

This course is on your wish list. You will be notified when this course becomes available.

Want to receive notification when this course becomes available?

{{ loggedIn ? 'Add to wish list' : 'Log in/create a new account to add to wish list' }}

Info you should know:

Continuing Studies statement on use of educational technology

This course will require the use of Zoom and may use other education technology such as internet-based applications, cloud services, or social media. In order to complete this course you will be required to either consent to the disclosure of your personal information outside of Canada to enable use of these technologies, or work with the Division of Continuing Studies to explore other privacy protective options (such as using an alias or nickname).