• University of Leeds

Causes of Human Disease: Understanding Causes of Disease

Learn the epidemiological methods used to understand the causes of diseases and how social factors influence their development.

20,730 enrolled on this course

image of bacteria under microscope causing human disease

Causes of Human Disease: Understanding Causes of Disease

20,730 enrolled on this course

  • 2 weeks

  • 4 hours per week

  • Accreditation available

  • Digital certificate when eligible

  • Introductory level

Find out more about how to join this course

Discover epidemiology: the study of diseases.

What causes human disease? Why do some people get a disease but others don’t? Through this course, you’ll learn how epidemiologists are helping to find answers to these complex questions and how the health of a population is measured and analysed. By looking at stimulating case studies, you’ll explore how the social determinants of health contribute to human disease and how health inequalities exist. You will then look at health inequalities across the globe and investigate how and why different socioeconomic factors determine human health.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 13 seconds I’m Dr. Tracey Farragher, a lecturer public health epidemiology. And epidemiology is around understanding diseases and inequalities in the conditions across maybe a population. And that’s what this course is really about. Trying to understand how we look at associations between risk factors and diseases. And some of the common risk factors, such as social inequalities. So why did different groups of people have different lifestyle factors? So some areas are more likely to smoke, drink heavily, have poor diet, but we try and look at those socioeconomic factors that might drive an individual’s risk of having those lifestyle factors. So we’re looking at what we call upstream.

Skip to 0 minutes and 59 seconds In the course, we’re going to look at it from a UK perspective. But we’re going to bring lots of examples of the global perspective. And in the final section of the course, we’re going to look at the inequalities in health across the globe, because different conditions are more prevalent in different areas of the world. This course is really for a wide range of people. For example, those that are interested in health stories that they might see in the newspapers, that they’re interested in their own health. But also trying to understand why there might be inequalities in health or trying to understand why government policies might be helping or not helping to improve inequalities in health.

Skip to 1 minute and 44 seconds Sign up now for Causes of Human Disease: Understanding Causes of Disease.


  • Week 1

    Principles of population health

    • Welcome

      Welcome to Causes of Human Disease: Understanding Causes of Disease. This course explores two topics related to understanding the causes of human disease: the principles of population health, and the social determinants of health.

    • Understanding human populations

      This activity explains the main processes in understanding the structure of a population and its impact on a country’s health.

    • Measuring health

      This activity describes the key indicators used to monitor the health status of populations and the distribution of diseases.

    • Analysing the risk factors

      This activity explains how evidence is gathered through analytical epidemiology to understand causes of human disease at a population level.

    • Revision

      This revision activity is optional and is designed for those signed up for the Causes of Human Diseases program.

    • Summary

      To close this week of the course, you will have the opportunity to reflect on the week and explore the Glossary.

  • Week 2

    Social determinants of health

    • About Week 2

      This week you will explore the social determinants of health, the life course approach, health inequalities and global perspectives.

    • Social determinants of health

      This activity explores social aspects of health that can contribute to the causes of disease.

    • Life course approach

      This activity discusses social aspects of health that contribute to the causes of disease.

    • Global health

      This activity summarises key features and differences of global patterns of disease with a focus on health inequalities.

    • Revision

      This revision activity provides further opportunity for you to explore the topics covered this week. It is recommended you complete this activity if you have signed up for the program and are working towards academic credit.

    • Summary

      Here there is an opportunity for you to test your understanding and find out more about the other courses in the program.

Who is this accredited by?

The CPD Certification Service
The CPD Certification Service:

This course has been certified by the CPD Certification Service as conforming to continuing professional development principles. By completing the course the learner has achieved 14 hours of CPD time.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Explain how evidence is gathered through epidemiology to measure the health of the population and understand causes of human disease.
  • Discuss the social and environmental factors that contribute to causes of disease and poor health.
  • Summarise key features and differences of global patterns of disease with a focus on health inequalities.

Who is the course for?

The course is suitable for anyone with a general interest in the science behind causes of human disease. No previous knowledge or experience is required. If you are working in nursing, healthcare or social care, or just wish to learn more, this course is designed to support you as a professional. By completing all aspects of the course you will have achieved 14 hours of CPD time.

Who will you learn with?

I am Lecturer in Public Health Epidemiology at the University of Leeds. For more information see: https://medhealth.leeds.ac.uk/profile/600/482/tracey_farragher

Who developed the course?

University of Leeds

As one of the UK’s largest research-based universities, the University of Leeds is a member of the prestigious Russell Group and a centre of excellence for teaching.

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Choose the best way to learn for you!

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Automatically renews

Develop skills to further your career

  • Access to this course
  • Access to 1,000+ courses
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Tests to boost your learning
  • Digital certificate when you're eligible

Cancel for free anytime

Buy this course

$94/one-off payment

Fulfill your current learning need

  • Access to this course
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Tests to boost your learning
  • Printed and digital certificate when you’re eligible

Limited access


Sample the course materials

  • Access expires 17 Dec 2022

Find out more about certificates, Unlimited or buying a course (Upgrades)

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  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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