SUR2: Communicating Data Effectively - Course Outline


This course builds on the basic concepts of communication, outlined briefly in the SUR1: Introduction to Surveillance course. Learning materials focus on the central elements of communication, the ethical principles and approaches in relation to it and offer suggestions for communicating surveillance data effectively – one of the essential steps of the surveillance cycle. You will explore a range of communication strategies and ways of working that will ensure your data triggers appropriate action and impact.


There are no prerequisites to the course but you will want to have a basic understanding of the fundamentals of epidemiology, the basic principles of public health surveillance and an understanding of high school mathematics. You will also have some experience and knowledge in the utilization 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; preparing, analyzing and interpreting various types of data and of presentation tools, including tables, graphs and charts in your work as a public health practitioner.

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 be able to:


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 six lessons, and includes assignments and discussion forum activities. Each lesson ends with a self‐assessment test. You will have eight weeks to complete the 25-33 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.

SUR2 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 on the Discussion Forum: Welcome to Communicating Data Effectively

Lesson 1: Overview of Communication

  • Start Lesson 1
1-2 hours

Week 2

Lesson 1: Overview of Communication

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

Lesson 2: Communicating Health Data Clearly

  • Start Lesson 2
3-4 hours

Week 3

Lesson 2: Communicating Health Data Clearly

  • Finish Lesson 2
  • Complete Discussion Activity 2
  • Complete Self-Assessment for Lesson 2
  • Complete Assignment 2

Lesson 3: Introduction to Data Presentation - Scientific Articles and Reports

  • Start Lesson 3
5-6 hours

Week 4

Lesson 3: Introduction to Data Presentation - Scientific Articles and Reports

  • Finish Lesson 3
  • Complete Assignment 3
  • Complete Self-Assessment for Lesson 3
5-6 hours

Week 5

Lesson 4: Introduction to Data Presentation - Using Figures

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

Week 6

Lesson 5: Guidelines for Tables as Figures

  • Complete Lesson 5
  • Begin Assignment 4
3-4 hours

Week 7

Lesson 6: Guidelines for Graphs and Maps as Figures

  • Start Lesson 6
  • Complete Discussion Activity 4
  • Complete Assignment 4
3-4 hours

Week 8

Lesson 6: Guidelines for Graphs and Maps as Figures

  • Finish Lesson 6
  • Complete Self-Assessment for Lesson 6
  • Complete Final Feedback Survey
2-3 hours
Total: 25-33 hours

Course Features


The lessons in this course utilize a mixture of text, figures and links to websites to:

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 four assignments in this course ask you to:

  1. apply the concepts of target audiences and messaging for target audiences;
  2. practice developing skills in communicating information from public health data;
  3. apply rules and guidelines for writing press releases;
  4. consolidate the key concepts of effective communication for public health by critiquing some existing materials.

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 four 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: