HAR655: Public Health Informatics


Public Health Informatics is a module designed to look at how informatics and information technology can be used to help address some of the major issues in public health. Public health informatics was traditionally defined as "the systematic application of information and computer science and technology to public health practice, research, and learning" (Yasnoff, 2000). In this module, we examine this rapidly changing field, using a combination of lectures, individual and group exercises and self directed learning. Key issues around the local, national and international contributions that technology can make to public health are critically examined and students are given a theoretical and practical grounding in this increasingly important discipline.


This unit aims to provide a wide-ranging overview of the application of informatics to public health at a local, national and international level.

Learning outcomes

On completion of this module, students should be able to:

  • Provide examples of information/informatics in public health at a local, national and international level.
  • Have a comprehensive understanding of how informatics can be used to meet public health needs at a local, national and international level.
  • Critically discuss and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of using informatics to meet public health needs.
  • Apply techniques and frameworks to interrogate and evaluate public health information systems.
  • Develop a critical awareness of the challenges facing the use of informatics/information in public health and the current and future trends of the discipline.

Teaching Methods

The module will consist of a variety of learning methods including lectures, seminars and exercises.

In addition, students will be expected to spend a significant amount of time on self study, including work for specific sessions, general reading and time working on the module assessment.

Lectures will introduce students to the weekly topics and provide a theoretical background to the topic.

Specific case studies and examples will be introduced as part of the lectures and will form the basis of the weekly self directed learning activity.

The weekly exercise or learning activity may be a scenario based case study, an online discussion, articles to read and critically evaluate or a presentation to prepare.

In addition, practical student led sessions will be offered where appropriate.

The assessment for the module will consist of formatics presentation, to be delivered in Week 11 and a summative assignment to be delivered in Week 15.

Further independent study will allow exploration of relevant issues, either via staff led or student led reading/activities.


Component Weighting
Group presentation (Week 11) 20%
Report (2000 words) (Week 15) 80%

The module assessment is in two parts.

The first part is a Group Presentation. You will work in small groups and prepare a 15 minute presentation relating to new technological innovations and the contribution that they can potentially make to Public Health.

The second part will take the form of a 2000 word report: Explore, using an external evaluation framework, a specific, named system/application (for example a disease register, disease surveillance network or some global epidemiological resource) which provides information to help meet health needs at a population level. The report should:

  • Briefly identify and discuss around 4-6 articles (excluding the source materials of the chosen evaluation framework) which will examine and highlight issues associated with the specific system/application.
  • Examine the system/application critically; looking at both its strengths and weaknesses, using an external evaluation framework (which may focus on issues such as sharing data, security, confidentiality, ethics and usability).
  • Consider the current status of the system/application and make an assessment of prospects for its further development and utilisation.