SUR1: Introduction to Surveillance - Course Outline


This course aims to advance your knowledge and ability to participate in the various aspects of the public health surveillance cycle and to use public health surveillance systems to move data from information to action in the workplace. Learning materials focus on the dissemination of public health surveillance data and information through an overview of the basic principles, followed by a review of some of the major surveillance products of Canadian and International surveillance systems. The course includes only an outline of the basic principles, skills and strategies of communicating data effectively as these items are the subject of SUR 2: Communicating Data Effectively.


EPI1: Basic Epidemiological Concepts is the only prerequisite for the course.

You will need a basic understanding of the fundamentals of epidemiology and an understanding of high school mathematics. You will be working with rates, and so will require some knowledge in the use of ratios, proportions, crude, specific and adjusted rates; incidence and prevalence; defining health and health status; assessing the health of a community using selected indicators of health status; and preparing, analyzing and interpreting various types of data and of presentation tools, including tables, graphs and charts.

If you are a beginning practitioner or would like to refresh your knowledge of the fundamentals of epidemiology you are encouraged to take the first three introductory courses: EPI1: Basic Epidemiological Concepts; EPI2: Measurement of Health Status and EPI3: Epidemiological Methods before registering for this course.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this course, you will:


Successful completion of this course contributes to the attainment of the following Core Competencies for Public Health In Canada:

The Learning Process

This course is divided into five lessons, and includes assignments and discussion forum activities. Each lesson ends with a self‐assessment test. You will have eight weeks to complete the 20-28 hours of work required (about 3‐5 hours per week is suggested; see the learning schedule below).

A trained online facilitator, knowledgeable in public health, is assigned to your group to provide support and guidance. The facilitator is available to answer content‐related questions, provide feedback on assignments, and encourage discussion among participants through discussion forums.

SUR1 Learning Schedule

This schedule is a guide to help you pace yourself as you go through the course. Please aim to complete the discussion activities "in sync" with the other learners.

Time Period Course Work Estimated # of hours

Week 1

Getting Started: what you need to know and do

  • Make sure you can access all parts of the course site
  • Review material
  • Introduce yourself and respond to fellow learners in the Discussion Forum: Welcome to Introduction to Surveillance

Lesson 1: Review of Public Health Surveillance

  • Start Lesson 1
1-2 hours

Week 2

Lesson 1: Review of Public Health Surveillance

  • Finish Lesson 1
  • Complete Assignment 1
  • Complete Self-Assessment for Lesson 1

Lesson 2: Overview of Public Health Surveillance Systems

  • Start Lesson 2

Week 3

Lesson 2: Overview of Public Health Surveillance Systems

  • Continue Lesson 2
  • Complete Discussion Activity 1
3-4 hours

Week 4

Lesson 2: Overview of Public Health Surveillance Systems

  • Finish Lesson 2
  • Complete Self-Assessment for Lesson 2

Lesson 3: Analysis, Presentation, and Interpretation of Public Health Surveillance Data

  • Begin Lesson 3
3-4 hours

Week 5

Lesson 3: Analysis, Presentation, and Interpretation of Public Health Surveillance Data

  • Continue Lesson 3
  • Complete Discussion Activity 2
  • Complete Assignment 2
3-4 hours

Week 6

Lesson 3: Analysis, Presentation, and Interpretation of Public Health Surveillance Data

  • Finish Lesson 3
  • Complete Self-Assessment for Lesson 3

Lesson 4: Dissemination of Information and Surveillance Products

  • Start Lesson 4
3-4 hours

Week 7

Lesson 4: Dissemination of Information and Surveillance Products

  • Finish Lesson 4
  • Complete Discussion Activity 3
  • Complete Assignment 3
  • Complete Self-Assessment for Lesson 4
3-4 hours

Week 8

Lesson 5: Issues and Future Trends in Public Health Surveillance Systems

  • Complete Lesson 5
  • Complete Discussion Activity 4
  • Complete Self-Assessment for Lesson 5

Finishing Up

  • Ensure you have completed all parts of the course, have submitted all assignments and completed discussion activities.
  • Complete final Feedback Survey
2-3 hours
Total: 20-28 hours

Course Features


The lessons in this course build on the basic principles of public health surveillance presented in Lesson #4 of the EPI1: Basic Epidemiological Concepts course. A mix of text, figures and links to websites is utilized to drill deeper into:

The emphasis is on infectious disease surveillance products as these are the most highly developed. However, references and links are made to surveillance products in the areas of chronic diseases, injury, preventive practices and other developing areas.

Discussion Forums

Discussion forums are integral to the course. Messages can be posted and read on the forum system whenever convenient — 24 hours a day, seven days a week.


Assignments feature in all the courses, allowing you to reflect on the course content and to apply some of the concepts and principles to your work as a public health practitioner.

The assignments in this course focus on:

  1. application of concepts related to safeguarding data;
  2. interpretation of disease rates and identification of factors that may influence rates;
  3. critical review of surveillance products.

Assignments are usually one or two pages in length. Your facilitator will review, grade and provide individual feedback for each assignment. An incomplete assignment is returned with your facilitator’s comments and a request to resubmit.


Following each lesson you will be able to complete a short quiz to evaluate your understanding of the subject matter presented within each lesson. You will receive automatic feedback on your performance.


Successful completion of this course requires you to:

  1. complete all activities within the prescribed time frame for each;
  2. receive a satisfactory rating for all three assignments;
  3. participate in each of the four discussion forums;
  4. complete the final feedback survey questionnaire.


Participants receive a certificate from the Public Health Agency of Canada upon successful completion of the course.

Registration information is available at Skills Online-Register For Courses page. Note: you must be registered and logged in to access the registration page.

Note: Completion of this course contributes to the following Learning Pathcertificates: