School of Population Health

Communicable disease (PHCM2004)


This course will introduce students to the burden of infectious or communicable disease worldwide. Students will learn about the theory of transmission modes, surveillance, outbreak investigation, current disease prevention, control and management strategies, and emerging and re-emerging infections. Key case studies covering different types of communicable diseases will be used to illustrate these important concepts. Current and future challenges in communicable disease control will be highlighted.

Credit points

This is a core course in the Bachelor of International Public Health (3880) comprising 6 units of credit towards the total required for completion of the study program.

Mode of study

Both face-to-face and online.


There are no pre-requisite courses that need to be completed before undertaking this course.

Course aim

This course will introduce students to communicable diseases, their global burden and challenges in the control and management of disease spread and impact. This will be achieved by covering key factors such as differing modes of transmission, the impact of travel and behaviour on transmission, the importance of surveillance in achieving disease prevention and control, key steps in an outbreak investigation and current disease prevention, control and management strategies.

Course learning outcomes

On successful completion of this course you will be able to:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of communicable disease epidemiology, including important modes of transmission and the burden of disease in international contexts.
  • Identify appropriate features of relevant surveillance systems in particular settings and scenarios.
  • Determine appropriate strategies for investigating and controlling an outbreak.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the methods used to prevent and control communicable diseases.
  • Describe the importance of WASH and immunisation programs in controlling communicable disease.
  • Recognise factors that influence human attitudes, behaviours and risk perceptions towards communicable diseases.
  • Identify and use relevant literature to provide supporting evidence for public health decision-making.
Learning and teaching rationale

Each week composes of one module of learning. Core content is provided through lectures, including guest expert lectures. After each week lecture, there will be a case study, which will help students consolidate and strengthen their understanding of the key learning concepts. There are discussion areas on Moodle, where students can ask questions relating to the weekly learning activities and the course assessments. Students also have the opportunity to participate in scheduled online discussions.

This course uses UNSW Moodle as the learning management system for the facilitation and communication between faculty and students, submission of assignments, course material, and posting of grades. All students have access to the course material, readings and additional resources online via UNSW Moodle.

Teaching strategies

The course is available in both internal (face-to-face) and external (online) study modes.

Internal students:
A ‘Flipped Classroom” approach will be used in this course. This will consist of both face-to-face class and online components.  Students will watch lecture videos outside of class time and will experience related case studies in the class room. Internal student are required to attend the on campus classes (2 hour) every week. If face-to-face classes are cancelled due to COVID-19, the same classes will be available online.

External students:
This course is available fully online for external students. There are 10 modules in this course.  Each module contains a mixture of recorded lecture/s and case studies which student can work through in Moodle at their own pace over 10 weeks. There will be a discussion forum available for each module, which student can use to post any issues raised in the readings, the lectures or case studies during the course. The discussion forums will be supported by SPH academic staff on weekdays.


Assessment Task 1 - Quizzes 1-10
Length: 5 MCQs each quiz
Weighting: 25%

Assessment Task 2 - Outbreak Investigation
Length: 2000 words
Weighting: 30%

Assessment Task 3 - Online Discussion Report Log
Weighting: 10%

Assessment Task 4 - Communicable Disease Report
Length: 2500 words
Weighting: 35%

Readings and resources

There are many excellent textbooks on communicable diseases. The following are some suggestions that you can use.