Surveillance and Outbreak Core Skills

The course

Participants will learn, through a variety of lectures, case studies and hands-on exercises, to apply epidemiological principles and use relevant technical tools for public health investigations.

This limited enrollment course is facilitated by the Training and Development Unit (Centre for Emergency Preparedness) with subject matter experts and facilitators from the Public Health Agency of Canada and other public health partner organizations.

Surveillance and Outbreak Core Skills, formerly known as Epidemiology in Action, is a three week course delivered virtually, in English only. Course materials are available in English but participants will be invited to ask questions in their language of choice (English or French). Material in French may be available upon request at The course is structured with 4 hours of virtual class time (11:30 to 3:30 ET) each day in addition to 3.5 hours of additional work outside of scheduled class time per day. Participants are required to dedicate 7.5 hours per day to actively participate in the course. Participants are expected to attend all three week-long modules.

Surveillance and Outbreak Core Skills will be delivered in three interrelated, modular sessions where participants learn and apply a systematic approach to disease surveillance and outbreak investigation. Participants will apply this approach in the context of public health surveillance (week 1), foodborne illness outbreaks (week 2) and person-to-person outbreaks (week 3). The training emphasizes a systems approach to public health surveillance and evaluation, focusing on the descriptive and analytical methods required to build and evaluate the epidemiological evidence regarding the cause(s) of an outbreak, and working collaboratively with partners to inform public health actions.

Software used throughout the training modules include MS Office (e.g., Excel, PowerPoint), Epi Info 7, Pajek, and Zoom.

Training modules

  • Module One: Surveillance Fundamentals
    • This module reviews public health surveillance concepts and principles. Participants apply these concepts and principles to design a surveillance system for a current emerging public health issue. Participants apply a stepwise approach to collaboratively plan the evaluation of a surveillance system.
  • Module Two: Introduction to Foodborne Outbreak Investigation
    • Module 2 covers identifying and confirming the existence of an outbreak, assembling the outbreak team, confirming diagnosis, analyzing whole genome sequence trees, evidence gathering, generating hypotheses, case interviewing, weighing the epidemiological evidence and conducting post-outbreak tasks.
  • Module Three: Investigating Outbreaks with Person-to-Person Transmission
    • Module 3 covers the public health management of communicable diseases, contact tracing, data management and database construction considerations, social network analysis, data analysis and analytical tools applicable to outbreaks of pathogens transmissible from person-to-person.

Who should apply?

The Surveillance and Outbreak Core Skills course is suitable for individuals seeking to build their knowledge and skills for outbreak investigations or for experienced practitioners seeking a refresher. Participants should have some experience conducting statistical analyses.

Applicants should:

  • currently work in public health,
  • have basic understanding of public health surveillance,
  • have some basic understanding of statistical analyses and epidemiological concepts, and
  • have the opportunity to apply the skills and knowledge learned through this training in their day to day work.

All applications will be reviewed and participants will be selected on the basis of the above criteria. As space in this course is limited, priority will be given to Canadian citizens and permanent residents as well as public servants employed within local/regional/provincial/territorial/federal jurisdictions. A number of spaces in the course are reserved for the incoming cohort of field epidemiologists, some Canadian Public Health Service Public Health Officers, and other epidemiologists within Government of Canada departments.

This course is not open to students and applicants must have completed their undergraduate and/or graduate studies at the time of their application.


There is no tuition fee for the course; however, participants are required to ensure that they can dedicate 7.5 hours each day for three weeks to actively participate in the course. Participants will also need to have access to:

  • Computer/tablet
  • Software: MS Word (or equivalent), MS Excel (or equivalent), MS PowerPoint (or equivalent), internet browser (e.g., Chrome), Epi Info, Pajek, and Zoom
  • Telephone
  • Headset/earphones (recommended to reduce echo)
  • Pen and paper for notes
  • Webcam and microphone for computer


The application process is launched in late spring/early summer of each year. In order to be notified of the application process or to sign up for notifications of other courses offered, please sign up for the CFEP listserv, by contacting us at

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