Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Coláiste Ríoga na Máinleá in Éirinn

Undergraduate teaching

Curriculum EBH-PHE

The Department of Epidemiology and Public Health delivers two modules in the third trimester of the Junior Cycle: The Evidence-Based Health (EBH) and Population Health Epidemiology (PHE) module.

The EBH and PHE module include a team project which delivers on learning outcomes in the teamwork components of professionalism as well EBH and PHE learning outcomes. Throughout the EBH and PHE modules, an international perspective is taken, with applications drawn from both developed and developing countries, and a discussion of key issues at global as well as a national level. EBH-PHE provides a basis for student learning of international health and tropical medicine, most of which is delivered in the Intermediate Cycle.

EBH introduces students to the traditional subjects of statistics and epidemiology in a way that enables them to develop the skills to understand study design and interpret the evidence base that underpins the scientific basis of medicine. RCSI staff from across the pre-clinical and clinical departments provide students with examples from their current research. By the end of the EBH module, students will be able to read a published abstract or paper and: 

  • Identify the research design and assess how well it was implemented in the research
  • Interpret the findings
  • Identify limitations imposed by factors such as bias, low precision, limited clinical applicability
  • Place the research in the context of the literature by locating and summarising research which took place before and after it
  • Identify the ethical and professional issues relevant to the research and appraise the research ethically.

The PHE module enables students to understand how the principles of epidemiology are applied in population health programmes.

PHE is organised around four themes: measuring health and disease, improving health, protecting health, and planning and providing services. After successfully completing the PHE course, students should be able to correctly:

  • Describe the common causes and distribution of diseases
  • Understand the influence of physical, environmental nutritional, social and behavioural factors on health, illness, recovery and wellness
  • Define, calculate, utilise and interpret a range of measures of health, disease and burden of disease
  • Evaluate risk and apply epidemiological principles and public health approaches to reduce and prevent disease and improve the health of populations
  • Identify the characteristics of a range of health systems and the merits and problems associated with each. 


Teaching is conducted using a combination of lectures, individual and team-based project work.

The team project consists of a critical appraisal of journal articles, where students demonstrate their critical skills in analysing the research evidence presented and their understanding of the ethical issues that pertain to the research. It also requires students to conduct a systematic review of a public health intervention for preventing, or improving the outcomes of disease and analyse the teamwork experience. The project is run primarily through student managed group work with flipped classroom sessions to provide students with the opportunity to discuss their work with class tutors. Group work processes are monitored through student uploads of reports. Queries and problems are managed through email and Moodle. The individual-based online exercise will guide students through the steps of an epidemiological outbreak investigation. A series of multiple choice questions is asked after each section.


Students are assessed through a combination of formative and summative assessment. Formative assessment involves a combination of formative MCQs and the online.

Outbreak exercise. Summative assessment comprises of MCQs, some of which are based on an ability to analyse an article abstract or a diagram, and the team projects.

For students to pass the EBH-PHE module, they have to achieve a minimum mark (45%) in their written exam, whereupon marks for the continuous assessment are then counted as additional.


Student feedback is obtained at the end of each semester in an online survey. The feedback allows comparison among modules across a number of domains, including depth of understanding, quality of teaching materials, and clarity of information delivery, among other areas. This evaluation is conducted across all Junior Cycle modules, with feedback providing key information for ongoing modification of course delivery.

Quality checks of examination questions are conducted also at the end of each semester, both internally in the department and externally by the Student, Academic and Regulatory Affairs (SARA) office. This evaluation is key to maintaining and enhancing the quality of examinations on an ongoing basis.


The Zachary Johson prize is awarded to the top performing student team project of the EBH-PHE module. Teams that have produced excellent reviews may be offered the possibility of support from staff in submitting the manuscript for publication in a scientific journal.