Evaluating the impact of public health programs with a focus on tropical health issues

Course dates: 4-7 October 2016
Program: Surveillance Evaluation and Research Program and the Sexual Health Program
Convenor: Dr Richard Gray
Lecturers: Dr Richard Gray, A/Prof Rebecca Guy and other Kirby Institute staff, guest lecturers with expertise in specific areas

Aims: An introduction to the principles and methodologies used to evaluate the impact of public health programs. The course includes an overview of the design of empirical evaluations, epidemiological modelling and basic health economics calculations used to interpret the effectiveness of public health programs. Concepts will be illustrated using practical examples from the HIV,  tropical infections, sexually transmitted infections, and other blood borne virus fields.

Student learning outcomes:

  • Understand key methodologies used to assess efficacy, effectiveness and the population impact of public health programs.
  • Assess the design of empirical evaluations of program effectiveness.
  • Interpret program monitoring and evaluation data.
  • Understand the basics of epidemiological modelling and know when it may be useful for assessing interventions.
  • Perform basic health economics calculations and interpret cost-effectiveness evaluations.
  • Apply effective methods of communicating evaluation results to public health stakeholders.


Teaching strategies and methods will include a combination of:

  • A series of lectures and tutorials to introduce, explain and explore concepts, terms, and methods of impact evaluation;
  • Case studies from the research literature and the work of the Kirby Institute research staff;
  • Small group exercises designing and assessing a public health program evaluation, with a presentation of findings.


Content: The course introduces the basic methods of impact evaluation and the tools used to inform the development of public health policy. It provides basic understanding of empirical study designs, epidemiological modelling and health economics calculations — including prospective versus retrospective evaluations, survey design, analyses of time series data, randomization, determining an appropriate counterfactual, modelling, and cost-effectiveness calculations. Case studies will focus on HIV  and tropical infections and are based on the experience of the Kirby Institute staff but will include discussions relevant to a broad range of public health issues.

Assessment: Assessment will involve a group exercise to investigate an impact evaluation of a public health intervention. This will provide hands-on experience in the application of the methods used in this course. The assessment will include individual contribution to the group activity (self- and peer-assessment) and a final presentation assessed by faculty.

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