Erasmus Summer Programme Courses

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History of Epidemiologic Ideas [ESP53]

Course highlights

EC points


Start date

8 August 2022

End date

12 August 2022

Course days

Monday to Friday (5 mornings)

Course time

From 8:45 till 11:45 CEST


Prof. Alfredo Morabia

Course fee

€ 740


Erasmus MC, Rotterdam NL


Intermediate Advanced


There is no prerequisite but the course covers material of increasing conceptual complexity as it moves from the 17th to the 21st century. Doctoral students usually benefit the most from the class, but, because the class is strictly conceptual – no statistical notions are required -, students without a statistical background usually get insights into methods and concepts (e.g., causal models) that are usually taught in a statistical way.


  • Epidemiology
  • Methodology
  • Public Health

Course Materials

Digitally, download instructions will be sent before the start of the course, by e-mail.

Recommended texts:

Enigmas of Health and Disease How Epidemiology Helps Unravel Scientific Mysteries Alfredo Morabia Columbia University Press

MORABIA A. Pandemics and methodological developments in epidemiology history. J Clin Epidemiol. 2020 Sep;125:164-169. doi: 10.1016/j.jclinepi.2020.06.008. Epub 2020 Jun 12. PubMed PMID: 32540385; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC7291979.

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Detailed information about this course:


Faculty: Prof. Alfredo Morabia, MD PhD

Because of the key role it played in forecasting and modelling the evolution of the covid-19 pandemic, epidemiology is better known now by the public at large, but is it? What is epidemiology? The methods (group comparisons) and concepts (confounding, bias, interaction) of epidemiology have been developed through attempts to understand the causes of major epidemics of infectious diseases, as well as the epidemic rise of non-communicable diseases, from the 17th century through the 21st. Its unique combination of population thinking and group comparison has helped society to control and prevent these major scourges. The course reviews these epidemics and pandemics, and discusses their impact on the research methods and concepts taught today in epidemiology. The course is comprised of lectures by Alfredo Morabia, but students are requested to respond to short questions at the end of every lecture. The responses are discussed the next day in class.


  • Understand that epidemiologic methods and concepts are in constant evolution and transformation
  • Link the plague, cholera, tuberculosis, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, HIV/AIDS, and Covid-19, in their societal context, with the evolution of specific methods and concepts in epidemiology
  • Develop an identity of epidemiologists aware of the history of their discipline

Participant profile

Clinical researchers, clinical epidemiologists, decision scientists, public health researchers, historians of science.