Mathematical modelling for the control of infectious diseases
9 - 20 September 2019
interactive short course for public health professionals, since 1990
Directed by Dr Nimalan Arinaminpathyand organised by Dr Natsuko Imai and Dr Joanna Lewis
Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Imperial College London
In recent years our understanding of infectious-disease epidemiology and control has been greatly increased through mathematical modelling. Insights from this increasingly-important, exciting field are now informing policy-making at the highest levels, and playing a growing role in research. The transmissible nature of infectious diseases makes them fundamentally different from non-infectious diseases, so techniques from 'classical' epidemiology are often invalid and hence lead to incorrect conclusions - not least in health-economic analysis.
Mathematical modelling now plays a key role in policy making, including health-economic aspects; emergency planning and risk assessment; control-programme evaluation; and monitoring of surveillance data. In research, it is essential in study design, analysis (including parameter estimation) and interpretation.
With infectious diseases frequently dominating news headlines, public health and pharmaceutical industry professionals, policy makers, and infectious disease researchers, increasingly need to understand the transmission patterns of infectious diseases, to be able to interpret and critically-evaluate both epidemiological data, and the findings of mathematical modelling studies. Recently there has been rapid progress in developing models and new techniques for measurement and analysis, which have been applied to outbreaks and emerging epidemics, such as Influenza A (H1N1) and SARS. A simple but powerful new technique for assessing the potential of different methods to control an infectious-disease outbreak was recently developed by course presenters.
Since 1990, this course has "demystified" mathematical modelling and kept public-health professionals, policy makers, and infectious disease researchers up-to-date with what they need to know about this fast-moving field, taught by individuals who are actively engaged in research and who advise leading public health professionals, policy-makers, governments, international organisations and pharmaceutical companies, both nationally and internationally, including on pandemic influenza, SARS, HIV, foot-and-mouth disease.
The Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Imperial College London has been the world leader in mathematical modelling of the epidemiology and control of infectious diseases of humans and animals in both industrialised and developing countries for 20 years. It hosts the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis (formerly, the MRC Centre for Outbreak Analysis & Modelling), UNAIDS Epidemiology reference Group, Partnership for Child Development and and the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative that, to date, has treated over 40 million children for Neglected Tropical Diseases. This multi-disciplinary department has publishes frequently in Nature, Science, Lancet, PNAS, AIDS and other leading journals. It has developed models of ebola, Iinfluenza A (H1N1), avian influenza, SARS, HIV, TB, foot-and-mouth-disease, vector-borne diseases including malaria and flariasis, helminth infections, childhood vaccine-preventable infections, sexually-transmitted infections, drug-resistant bacterial infections and others.
This course will enable you to:
- Understand the key concepts of infectious -disease transmission and control - and the differences with non-infectious diseases - taught by people who apply those concepts every day.
- Learn how modelling informs policy-making, from case-studies presented by the individuals who a dvise public health professionals and governments, nationally and internationally.
- Learn about developments at the cutting edge, taught by leaders of the field .
- Read modelling papers to critically-evaluate and interpret their findings.
- Understand how different control measures (e.g. vaccination, treatment, isolation, quarantine, travel restrictions ) will be effective - or ineffective - for different diseases.
- Explore models of different types of infectious disease, including influenza, TB, SARS, HIV, and vector-borne diseases.
- Design, implement and use simple but powerful models using Excel and other user-friendly software.
- Collaborate effectively with mathematical modellers.
Provisional Course Content & Methods
The course has been developed, since 1990, both at Imperial College London and the University of Oxford, by a leading research team with extensive experience of advising policy-makers, including in real-time outbreak situations. It is designed to satisfy the growing demand for a thorough, but short, introduction or update of the essential elements and practically-relevant aspects of infectious disease epidemiology. It is updated annually to reflect the most recent developments in the field. Diseases covered include influenza A (H1N1), avian influenza, SARS, HIV, TB, MRSA, and malaria and other vector-borne diseases.
Teaching is interactive, with the key concepts introduced in lectures. Most of the learning takes place in computer practicals, question-and-answer sessions and small-group discussions of key topics and published papers. These are designed to encourage reflection and consolidation of the key concepts.
In the first week, the basic conceptual, mathematical, statistical and computational tools needed for a rigorous approach to infectious disease epidemiology are introduced. Keynote lectures and case studies covering a wide range of topics place the current use of mathematical modelling in context, illustrating how it contributes in a number of ways to epidemiological studies, policy-making and evaluation. The focus of the second week is on extended, in-depth, hands-on, small-group projects, complemented by lectures addressing practical case studies.
This course does not merely illustrate some models, but rather we maximise your learning by helping you to make your own and apply them to real-world data, for example data from the 2003 outbreak of SARS in Hong Kong.
Every participant is allocated a computer with internet access throughout the course and is given an extensive course manual and permanent access to user-friendly modelling software, along with all the models used and developed on the course.
CME approval has been sought from the Royal College of Physicians, in 2016 50 credits were awarded for this course.
Social events include trip on the London Eye followed by a dinner banquet and a buffet lunch with department staff. There will be numerous opportunities to participate in informal social activities with a very friendly department.
Who should attend?
The course caters for:
- Policy-makers, public-health and disease-control professionals who need to
(i) set appropriate goals for, and monitor performance of, infection-control programmes;
(ii) interpret the findings of mathematical modelling studies; or
(iii) question modelling experts effectively.
- All who need to apply modern methods of analysis in the epidemiology and c ontrol of infectious diseases, in medical, veterinary and conservation contexts.
- Health economists who need to develop appropriate models of infectious-disease control programmes.
- Researchers who need experience of using modern quantitative approaches to infectious disease epidemiology.
- Professionals planning for the control of a deliberately of accidentally released pathogen.
- Mathematicians who wish to learn key biological concepts and how they are translated into modelling.
What mathematical ability is required?
Participants only need a very basic mathematical ability (high school level is more than sufficient): since most participants do not use maths regularly, if at all, we introduce concepts gently, step-by-step, and we offer the reassurance of an optional 'maths refresher' day.
Calculation is done using Excel and a user-friendly modelling package. We emphasise how to express biological and clinical principles in a model and how to interpret results from a biological and clinical perspective.
Optional free Maths and Excel refresher day
In addition to the support that we offer throughout the course we also offer an optional free Maths and Excel refresher (Sunday before the course) where delegates are introduced to the latest version of the programme and can learn techniques that will help them with practical work throughout the course.
Comments from past participants
Past participants have included hospital clinicians, senior public health executives, health economists, veterinary researchers, biologists, and mathematicians; they have come from 48 countries, both developed and developing.
"I feel a lot more confident in reading modelling papers now."
"This is a must if you are dealing with infectious diseases."
"A comprehensive course with training delivered by experts."