Core Course 3: Data Analysis for Public Health

Credit Hours: 2

Course Overview

This course is one of three 2-credit courses students take in the fall of their first year in the MPH program.

Public health practitioners work to improve population-wide health outcomes and reduce health disparities. To succeed at this, they must be able to understand how to produce, use and interpret data analyses. Public health professionals use data to understand how different factors (predictors) may be associated with health outcomes of interest. Data analyses are also used to determine the extent to which different interventions may be effective. Thus, you must be able to use data to make convincing arguments for which factors are important determinants in a public health outcome and to understand public health issues. 

This course is an introductory course focusing on the biostatistics and data science commonly used in public health and medical research applications.

Topics include:  

  • Descriptive statistics, data tables and graphs
  • Elementary probability theory, probability distributions, diagnostic tests and their properties  
  • Hypothesis testing and confidence intervals — calculating, constructing and interpreting  
  • Understanding limitations and best practices for using p-values and confidence intervals  
  • Selecting and evaluating methods of analysis that are appropriate for answering research questions for a given study design  
  • Evaluation of straightforward biostatistical usage in public health, with an emphasis on understanding research and scholarly publications  
  • Evaluation of the assumptions for statistical tests  
  • Common distributions and why they are important  
  • Analysis of different types of data such as categorical outcome, continuous outcome and binary outcome

You will use software to conduct straightforward analyses and make inferences from data. The focus will be on using data to understand associations and inform decisions, understanding commonly used methods from the public health literature and interpreting results in language accessible to other public health professionals.

This course will integrate with the other MPH core courses by using examples from the other courses (readings and lectures) and by referencing and reinforcing topics from the other courses. This course will also reference ways that the analysis topics can contribute to a successful team project in the Understanding Public Health Issues course.

Learning Objectives

  • Explain the role of quantitative methods and sciences in describing and assessing a population’s health.


  • Analyze quantitative data using biostatistics, informatics, computer-based programming and software, as appropriate.

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