School of Population Health

Foundations of Biostatistics (PHCM9795)

image - Epidemiology & Statistics for Public Health

  • This is a core course for students commencing from Term 1 2021 in the Master of Public Health (MPH), Master of Global Health (MGH), and Master of Infectious Diseases Intelligence (MIDI) programs, and all dual programs. This course is offered in internal and external modes.
  • Students who are continuing their programs in 2021 are permitted to replace the core course PHCM9498 by enrolling in this course (PHCM9795) and PHCM9794 .
  • Prerequisite: Students who are not enrolled in a postgraduate program in the Faculty of Medicine should contact the School of Population Health to discuss their academic background and seek enrolment approval.


A rigorous approach to the analysis, presentation and interpretation of data is the basis for population health. Applying appropriate statistical techniques and correctly interpreting results are fundamental skills in evaluating population health studies.

This course has been designed to introduce biostatistical theory and practice to enable students to perform and interpret descriptive and analytic summaries using population health data. Students will be introduced to fundamental statistical analysis methods, with hands-on experience analysing health data using statistical software.

Students are recommended to enrol in this course early in their program. The course is available to internal and external students and assistance will be available through tutorial activities and online help. If possible, students who are concerned about numeracy should consider enrolling in the course as an internal student.

Credit points

This course is a core course of the Master of Public Health, Global Health and Infectious Diseases Intelligence programs, comprising 6 units of credit towards the total required for completion of the study program. A value of 6 UOC requires a minimum of 150 hours work for the average student across the term.

Mode of study

External (Distance) and Internal (Face-to-Face) classes on campus.

Course aim

This course aims to provide students with the core biostatistical skills to apply appropriate statistical techniques to analyse data from a number of study types.

Learning outcomes

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

  1. Summarise and visualise data using statistical software.
  2. Demonstrate an understanding of statistical inference by interpreting p-values and confidence intervals.
  3. Apply appropriate statistical tests for different types of variables given a research question, and interpret computer output of these tests appropriately.
  4. Determine the appropriate sample size when planning a research study.
  5. Present and interpret statistical findings appropriate for a public health audience.
Learning and teaching rationale

The approach to learning and teaching in this course is based on adult learning principles. Students are expected to integrate prior knowledge with new concepts. A large component of the teaching strategy of this course is the application of the techniques taught in the course through self-directed learning activities and assessment tasks. These reflect the learning objectives of the course and are drawn from real studies. Students can self-assess their learning by reviewing the ideal answers to learning activities and assessments tasks. The course is taught over the University session in 10 modules.

Teaching strategies

Teaching strategies and resources include:

  1. Course notes and worked examples
  2. A weekly two hour lecture
  3. Weekly learning activities with worked solutions
  4. A weekly two hour tutorial (internal) or online discussion (external)
  5. Drop-in clinics to practice learning activities using statistical software in a computer laboratory

Assessment Task 1 - Quiz
Weighting: 20%

Assessment Task 2 - Assignment
Weighting: 40%

Assessment Task 3 - Assignment
Weighting: 40%

Readings and resources
Learning resources for this course consist of the following:
  1. Course pack containing:
    1. The course notes with readings
    2. Weekly learning activities
  2. Recommended texts
  3. Scientific calculator
Recommended texts

There are many excellent biostatistics textbooks. We recommend that you consider purchasing a textbook to supplement the course notes and to use as a reference in your public health career. We suggest the following textbook, also available as an eBook from the library.