Epidemiology 101: free online course for Africa-based journalists

The COVID-19 crisis has changed a lot about the world — including the scientific knowledge production process. This free course gives journalists the tools to navigate through fast-tracked research and critically report on COVID-19.


In July 2020, Bhekisisa hosted a a free, three-week long “Epidemiology 101” course for Africa-based journalists in partnership with The McGill International TB Centre, Chatham House and Media for Environment, Science, Health and Agriculture.

The course, that consisted of six 1.5 – 2 hour lectures was conceptualised by the renowned epidemiologist and head of the McGill International TB Centre, Madhukar Pai, who also presented similar workshops in India. Other instructors included Ngozi Erondu, a senior research fellow at the Chatham House Centre for Global Health Security and Taryn Young, the head of the Centre for Evidence-based Healthcare at Stellenbosch University in South Africa. The teaching assistants were Iya Saidou Conde, a World Health Organisation consultant from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Chido Dziva Chikwari from the Biomedical Research and Training Institute in Zimbabwe.

Sixty three journalists from 18 African countries, including Ethiopia, Senegal, Ghana, Egypt, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Kenya and South Africa, attended. Classes were presented over Zoom and ran every Monday and Thursday evening between 7pm and 8.30pm South Africa time.  

During these sessions, our journalists were introduced to key concepts in epidemiology, particularly research methods, to help make them more critical consumers, and thus reporters, of science outputs like research studies and trials. 

The course covered issues around bias in epidemiologic research, different types of study designs, the hierarchy of scientific evidence along with tips on thinking critically about medical research.

You can find all the lecture recordings, as well as the slides used in sessions, below. We hope it we equip you with reporting on health issues, especially COVID-related issues.

Lecture 1.1: What is epidemiology?

Presented by: Madhukar Pai

Date: 13 July 2020

Lecture slides available here

Lecture 1.2: Causality and epidemiologic study designs

Presented by: Madhukar Pai

Date: 13 July 2020

Lecture slides available here

Lecture 2.1: Epidemics and infectious disease dynamics

Presented by: Ngozi Erondu

Date: 16 July 2020

Lecture slides available here

Lecture 2.2: Measuring disease occurrence and association

Presented by: Ngozi Erondu

Date: 16 July 2020

Lecture slides available here

Lecture 3: Outbreak investigations and response

Presented by: Ngozi Erondu

Date: 20 July 2020

Lecture slides available here

Lecture 4: Bias in epidemiologic research

Presented by: Madhukar Pai

Date: 23 July 2020

Lecture slides available here

Lecture 5: Randomized controlled trials; cohort studies and case-control studies

Presented by: Madhukar Pai

Date: 27 July 2020

Lecture slides available here

Lecture 6.1: Cross-sectional, ecologic designs and diagnostic studies

Presented by: Madhukar Pai

Date: 30 July

Lecture slides available here and here

Lecture 6.2: Meta-analyses

Presented by: Taryn Young

Date: 30 July

Lecture slides available here

[Visit www.sacoronavirus.co.za for updates on South Africa’s coronavirus response.]