University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, School of Public Health
Department of Epidemiology

Should I take EPID 168?

Both of the introductory epidemiology courses (EPID 160 and EPID 168) cover much of the same material (for example, epidemiologic study designs, epidemiologic measures, causal inference, and various types of bias). Both courses have as a goal that students will be competent to read and interpret published epidemiologic research. Both courses satisfy the School of Public Health requirements for an introductory course, and both serve as an adequate prerequisite for most other epidemiology courses in the School.

EPID 160 provides a broad overview of epidemiologic research with a practical, application-oriented perspective. The course covers historical and international perspectives, survey research, and evaluation of public health interventions, so that it deals with the study methodologies that many of the EPID 160 students may actually need to utilize in their public health careers. EPID 160 is large (about 160 per semester), and well-organized. There is a published textbook, materials emphasize clarity of presentation and key learning objectives, and the web site ( is highly developed. EPID 160 meets for a two-hour discussion ("lab") session and a one-hour lecture each week, and carries three credit hours.

EPID 168 is a more focused course designed for epidemiology majors and formal minors. EPID 168 gives greater attention to theoretical issues and developing methodologies to prepare students for advanced epidemiology methods courses (specifically EPID 268, for which EPID 168 is a required prerequisite). A side effect of the greater concern for students to be conversant with current debates within the epidemiologic literature is that students will be exposed to issues that have not been resolved by the field, and clear, take-home messages are not always available. Students who take EPID 168 typically have a medical or other advanced degree, often have taken a basic course in epidemiology (for example, in medical school or at a summer institute), and often have related work experience. Their motivation to learn epidemiology is generally very high. EPID 168 meets for two one-and-a-half-hour lectures (TTH,11:00am-12:15pm) and one two-hour lab/discussion group a week (M 2:00-3:50 or 3:00-4:50). It is a four-credit course.


EPID 160 is the standard introductory epidemiology course for students majoring in fields other than Epidemiology. EPID 168 can accommodate a limited number of students not majoring in epidemiology, since class size must be restricted to fulfill the more specialized mission. Departments are requested to limit the number of their students to whom they recommend EPID 168 to the two or three for whom the course is most clearly indicated on the basis both of previous preparation and of educational goals.


Procedure for Preregistration/Registration for EPID 168:

EPID majors register for Section 001 and either Section 601 or 602, via CAROLINE.
Non-majors please request permission from the EPID Student Services Office (
Carmen Woody, Nancy Colvin) and enroll in Section 002 and either Section 603 or 604.


Recommended preparation for EPID 168:

"Biomedical background" -- the minimum here is biomedical "literacy", i.e., the ability to read and understand the basic issues in a research article in the medical literature and to be comfortable (or at least not uncomfortable) with medical terminology and examples. Students lacking preparation need to understand that medical terminology is used in the course and it is their responsibility to gain the necessary understanding of terms used. If a student has no courses or work experience, or only one course of a general biology/physiology nature, he/she falls on the borderline.

Quantitative background -- the minimum here is a working knowledge of algebra (including logarithms and exponents) plus BIOS 110 taken concurrently. Additional biostatistics is certainly advantageous. If a student has no previous biostatistics and very limited math background or facility, he/she falls on the borderline.

Epidemiology background -- there is no minimum here. If a student has no background, either through courses (including summer institutes) and no work experience, he/she falls on the borderline.

If a student falls on the borderline in any area, he or she should be advised that many or even most EPID 168 students will be better prepared so that this student may be at a disadvantage.

Students falling on the borderline in every area should be discouraged from taking EPID 168 unless they have offsetting strengths, very high motivation, no more than a moderate load of other courses and responsibilities, and a tolerance for uncertainty.



Last revised 8/11/1999,