Measuring Risk in Epidemiology

Icon of 2x2 table.

A study reports that smokers face a relative risk of dying from lung cancer 24 times higher than non-smokers, and a relative risk of only 1.4 times of dying of heart disease. How important are these differences? If you have no idea, then the module Measuring Risk in Epidemiology is for you. The module introduces key measures of risk, shows how they're calculated, and discusses how to interpret them when you encounter them in reports and news stories.

Suggested pre-requisites

What Is Epidemiology in Public Health?
Data Interpretation for Public Health Professionals
Study Types in Epidemiology


This course is co-provided by the Northwest Center for Public Health Practice (NWCPHP) and Continuing Nursing Education (UWCNE) at the University of Washington.

Target Audience

People working in the field of public health who are not epidemiologists but would like to increase their familiarity with and understanding of the basic terms and concepts used in epidemiology.


Objectives for Learning Outcomes

After completing this course, you will be better able to:

  • Define risk as it is used in public health practice
  • Identify measures of association and risk as they are used in epidemiology
  • Interpret relative risk and odds ratios and be familiar with their calculation using 2x2 tables
  • Interpret the following measures of risk differences:
    • attributable risk
    • population attributable risk
    • population attributable risk percent

Additional Information

Course summary
Maximum credit available: 
  • 1.00 Contact hours
  • 0.00 Pharmacology hours at the advanced practice level

James Gale, MD, MS
Professor Emeritus, Department of Epidemiology, University of Washington School of Public Health and Community Medicine, Seattle


Available Credit

  • 1.00 Contact hours
  • 0.00 Pharmacology hours at the advanced practice level


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