Course dates: 14 - 25 June 2021
Infectious diseases remain a leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide, with HIV, tuberculosis and malaria estimated to cause 10% of all deaths each year. New pathogens continue to emerge, as demonstrated by the SARS epidemic in 2003, the swine flu pandemic in 2009, MERS CoV in 2013, Zika in 2016 and recently, SARS-CoV-2.
Mathematical models are being increasingly used to understand the transmission of infections and to evaluate the potential impact of control programmes in reducing morbidity and mortality. Applications include determining optimal control strategies against new or emergent infections, such as SARS-CoV-2, Zika or Ebola, or against HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, and predicting the impact of vaccination strategies against common infections such as measles and rubella. Modelling was used extensively in the UK during the recent swine flu pandemic to monitor the extent of ongoing transmission and the potential impact of control such as school closures and vaccination. It is currently being used in many countries to predict the impact of interventions against COVID-19.
This two week online course, organised jointly between the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Public Health England is intended to introduce professionals working on infectious diseases in either developing or developed countries to this exciting and expanding area. The emphasis will be on developing a conceptual understanding of the basic methods and on their practical application, rather than the manipulation of mathematical equations. The methods will be illustrated by "hands-on" experience of setting up models in spreadsheets as well as other specialist modelling packages, and seminars in which the applications of modelling will be discussed.
By the end of the course, participants will have deepened their current understanding of infectious disease epidemiology and have gained an understanding and practical experience of the basics of infectious disease modelling, which will be useful in their future work.
Who should apply?
The course is designed for individuals interested in expanding their knowledge of the techniques available for analysing and interpreting epidemiological data on infectious diseases and for predicting the impact of control programmes, including medical and health professionals, policy makers, veterinary scientists, medical statisticians and infectious disease researchers. Specialist mathematical training is not a prerequisite. However, individuals with degrees in mathematical disciplines working on some aspect of infectious disease dynamics and/ or control, who wish to learn about the potential of infectious disease modelling will also benefit. Some familiarity with spreadsheet packages (ideally Excel) is desirable. Applicants should have a good command of English.
As this is a full-time course, to get the most out of it and to keep up with the material reviewed each day, most participants should expect to spend approximately 8 hours a day on the course material during both weeks.
Backgrounds of previous participants
The fee for 2021 is £1,780.
If the course fee is to be paid on the applicant's behalf, please send a letter from the sponsor to confirm this as soon as possible. Otherwise, the applicant will be held personally responsible for payment.
The course makes use of Excel, and a specialist modelling package (Berkeley Madonna). The topics to be covered include:
- Key concepts in infectious disease epidemiology;
- The basic methods for setting up (deterministic and stochastic) infectious disease models;
- Practical applications of modelling, including predicting the impact of control strategies against infections, and describing the course of outbreaks;
- Analyses of serological data: methods for estimating age and time-dependent transmission rates and their application for developing models of the dynamics of infections;
- Modelling in real-time;
- Models for describing STI and HIV transmission and control;
- Models of the dynamics and control of vector-borne diseases, tuberculosis;
- Fitting models to data, network models, sensitivity analyses and introductory health economics;
- Guest lectures from researchers working on mathematical modelling.
This course uses a combination of material that is taught on a popular and successful distance-learning module and the face-to-face modelling short course, An Introduction to Infectious Disease Modelling that has been running for many years at LSHTM. It is complemented by the published book “An Introduction to Infectious Disease Modelling” which was written by two of the course organizers (Emilia Vynnycky and Richard White).
All teaching is online and consists of self-study material using recorded lectures and computer practicals, and synchronous live review sessions and lectures. Optional live seminars by invited external modellers, epidemiologists and decision-makers, which highlight the practical applications of modelling (including several on COVID), are also scheduled throughout the course. These will be held between 14:00-16:00 UK time (equivalent to 13:00-15:00 UCT). Optional reviews will be scheduled during 09:00-09:30 and 17:00-17:30 UK time. See the detailed course description (below) for further details. Detailed course notes and a licence for the specialist, user-friendly modelling package "Berkeley Madonna" will be given to participants. Participants will also be sent a link to access the course material.
The course is taught by staff from the Centre for Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and the Statistics Modelling and Economics Department at Public Health England, London. Staff have extensive experience of working closely with epidemiologists, policy and decision makers, in applying modelling to field data from developed and developing countries and using models to guide policy decision, and in teaching modelling techniques to professionals from medical and biological disciplines. Further details about the backgrounds of staff in the Centre for Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases can be found on their staff profile pages.
Methods of assessment
There is no formal assessment but, at the conclusion of the course, a certificate of attendance will be provided.
Comments from recent attendees
- 'Great course! It's hard to bring people from different levels of knowledge together, but this course succeeded in doing so.'
- 'It would help infectious diseases doctors to develop a higher level of comprehension of how epidemics spread.'
- 'Many MDs working in tropical areas badly need these concepts...'
- 'One of the few courses where I really feel I learnt something useful.'
- 'One of best courses I have taken'
- 'It was relevant, compact, intensive.'
- 'The course is an excellent introduction to the field. It covers all the basics and I know enough to go away and work on the aspects I'd like to develop further.'
- 'I think the subject is relevant to anyone in healthcare, not just decision makers. Gives different ways of looking at diseases.'
- 'It is an excellent starting point for disease modelling.'
Course content and structure
- 'Really helps reinforce basic epidemiology and how that is applied and taken further.'
- 'We have lectures covering basic concepts and following that there are practicals to further digest them, that is so like me!'
- 'Is a really good course, where you really get useful outputs! Beautiful course to get in touch with modelling.'
- 'Lots of practicals for each session, lots of examples based on diseases: wide spectrum for applications.'
- 'Very rich content, did very well to get so much into such a short time.'
Level of difficulty
- 'Very good for a totally 'blur' person like me on modelling - I saw the light.'
- 'Just right; could even have been more difficult (but it would take more time to explain the maths; so this might not be feasible).'
- 'Challenging but very well presented.'
- 'This course provided a great introduction to modelling for non-mathematicians, making this important discipline accessible.'
- 'Just the right amount of challenging content.'
- 'It gives a good introduction to mathematical modelling for people without strong mathematical background to understand.'
Organization and teaching
- 'Everything was very well organised.'
- 'Complete use of all our time - I certainly got 'my moneys' worth! Mix of fellow students was excellent, majority of lectures were to a really high standard, as you would hope from world famous LSHTM!'
- 'Excellent teachers, very good division of time between activities.'
- 'I learnt a lot more from this course (LSHTM) than another modelling course I attended. First the lecture notes are really good. Second each lecture was followed by a practical session and is really fantastic. This helps students to consolidate the ideas from lecture and put the theory into practice. On the whole FANTASTIC. Thank you!'