School of Public Health and Community Medicine

Communicable disease (PHCM2004)


This course will introduce students to the burden of infectious or communicable disease worldwide. Students will learn about the theory of transmission modes, surveillance, outbreak investigation, current disease prevention, control and management strategies, and emerging and re-emerging infections. Key case studies covering different types of communicable diseases will be used to illustrate these important concepts. Current and future challenges in communicable disease control will be highlighted.

Credit points

This is a core course in the Bachelor of International Public Health (3880) comprising 6 units of credit towards the total required for completion of the study program.

Mode of study

Fully online.


There are no pre-requisite courses that need to be completed before undertaking this course.

Course aim

This course will introduce students to communicable diseases, their global burden and challenges in the control and management of disease spread and impact. This will be achieved by covering key factors such as differing modes of transmission, the impact of travel and behaviour on transmission, the importance of surveillance in achieving disease prevention and control, key steps in an outbreak investigation and current disease prevention, control and management strategies.

Course learning outcomes

On successful completion of this course you will be able to:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of communicable disease epidemiology, including important modes of transmission and the burden of disease in international contexts.
  • Identify appropriate features of relevant surveillance systems in particular settings and scenarios.
  • Determine appropriate strategies for investigating and controlling an outbreak.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the methods used to prevent and control communicable diseases.
  • Describe the importance of WASH and immunisation programs in controlling communicable disease.
  • Recognise factors that influence human attitudes, behaviours and risk perceptions towards communicable diseases.
  • Identify and use relevant literature to provide supporting evidence for public health decision-making.
Learning and teaching rationale

All students have access to the course notes, readings and additional resources online via UNSW Moodle. There are discussion areas on the site where students can ask questions relating to the weekly learning activities and the course assessments. Students also have the opportunity to participate in scheduled online discussions.

This course uses learning activities and assessment tasks that reflect the learning outcomes of the course and are drawn from real studies in order to support your learning of new concepts and the application of epidemiological techniques through practice, lectures, online discussions and scheduled webinars.

Teaching strategies

The course is delivered fully online over a ten-week term. Students are expected to spend approximately 10 hours a week preparing for and actively participating in this course and preparing for and completing assessments. Each week, lectures provide core content material. Lectures will be provided by members of the Infectious Disease Group at UNSW and by experts from the field who draw on their particular areas of expertise to introduce students to core theoretical approaches and applications. Online case studies will follow lectures which give real-world examples and scenarios with questions to assess student understanding.

This course uses learning activities and assessment tasks that reflect the learning outcomes of the course and are drawn from real studies so that students are exposed to new and current concepts where they can apply their knowledge of communicable diseases in developed and developing countries through practice, lectures and discussions.

Students are expected to actively participate in weekly discussion forums by posting a response to the guided questions and then commenting and engaging in discussions with your classmates and teachers.


Assessment Task 1 - Quizzes 1-10
Length: 5 MCQs each quiz
Weighting: 25%

Assessment Task 2 - Outbreak Investigation
Length: 2000 words
Weighting: 30%

Assessment Task 3 - Online Discussion Report Log
Weighting: 10%

Assessment Task 4 - Communicable Disease Report
Length: 2500 words
Weighting: 35%

Readings and resources

There are many excellent textbooks on communicable diseases. The following are some suggestions that you can use.