PUB-550: Application and Interpretation of Public Health Data.


This PUB-550: Application and Interpretation of Public Health Data course introduce learners to the application and interpretation of data to assess, design, and justify public health programs. Learners learn the basics of data management and statistical analysis using real-life public health data sets. Learners consider the implications of crafting a clear research question, identifying available and quality data, applying appropriate data analysis methods, and effectively communicating the results. Research standards and ethics are emphasized in contributing to evidence-based public health practice. Prerequisite: PUB-540.

What is public health?

Public health has been defined as the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life, and improving quality of life through organized efforts and informed choices of society, organizations (public and private), communities, and individuals.

What is public health data?

Public health data refers to the data about public health which is essential in performing a reliable and valid public health research. Additionally, this public health data can be used to evaluate program impact, to determine appropriate public health interventions, to monitor progress, to determine populations to target for an intervention, to determine barriers to care, and to influence public policy.

Main sources of public health data.

There are various sources of public health data. However, there are some sources that are considered major over the others. Some of the main sources of health statistics include:

  • Surveys,
  • Administrative and medical records,
  • Claims data,
  • Vital records,
  • Surveillance
  • Disease registries and
  • Peer-reviewed literature.

Public health data which has been collected from the above sources is very useful. However, in order to gain the maximum benefit from the data, it needs to be analyzed. Therefore, health care facilities often hire public health data analysts to help them with analyzing the data. A public health data analyst is someone who works within the public health sector and spends their time gathering and analyzing data related to general or specific issues. He/she provides effective solutions to social problems that affect the health of a community by conducting and analyzing research. Additionally, a public health data analyst may also conduct site visits to evaluate the performance of an organization or calculate the costs to health care programs in a specific region.

One of the reasons why public health data is collected and analyzed is to ensure efficient public health surveillance.

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What is Public health surveillance?

Public health surveillance involves the collection and interpretation of the public health data which has been collected to facilitate the prevention and control of the disease. Most importantly, surveillance for a disease or other health problem should have clear objectives in order to achieve all the objectives of public health surveillance.

Public health data collected as part of a public health surveillance system can be used for the following purposes:

  1. To estimate the magnitude of a problem.
  2. To identify groups at higher risk of having poorer outcomes.
  3. This public health data is used to examine relationships between risk factors and outcomes.
  4. After proper analysis of the public health data collected, health specialists are able to develop interventions and with continued monitoring assess the effectiveness of the intervention.

Steps in carrying out public health surveillance


Health care providers who provide clinical care, such as doctors, nurses, clinical officers, etc have to record the data. They complete a form recording various bits of information about patients seen in their practice.

Data accumulation

Someone in the Ministry of Health, the local health authorities, or the organization coordinating surveillance has to be responsible for collecting the data from all the reporters and putting it all together.

Data analysis

Often, an epidemiologist with specific data analysis and computer skills has to look at the data to calculate rates of disease, changes in disease rates, etc.

Judgment and action

Frequently, the public health authorities at the local, provincial, or national level have to decide, based on the results of the analysis, what needs to be done. In emergencies, it is often a joint opinion of local and national health authorities, the organization coordinating health, and all the organizations providing health services.

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