Following the report in the Journal of Public Health of the clinico-epidemiologic conference by David Stone,1 we wondered if the course, previously offered as a classroom exercise, could be offered online to reach a larger audience. Hence we piloted an online version of the course hosted on the Peoples-uni Open Online Courses site.
The stated objective of the course was: ‘to be able to demonstrate how it is possible to draw generalizable lessons from in-depth consideration of the clinical course of an individual patient, how familial, social and cultural and environmental factors may influence causation and progression (natural history) of disease, and the importance of prevention. Lessons for improving the health of the population may be drawn from consideration of individual patients.’
Course structure was to introduce a ‘case’—that of a baby with multiple drug resistant TB (MDR-TB), followed by discussions of the epidemiology: causation, interventions to halt progression, and prevention; and the population implications. Relevant resources were posted and asynchronous discussions facilitated by David Stone held over a 3-week timetable.
Present and past students of the Peoples-uni (http://peoples-uni.org) were invited to join, and 55 did so, 41 of whom came from Africa. Twenty-six were medical practitioners and 12 non-medical clinicians. Twenty-eight students posted to at least one of the discussion forums. The discussions were rich, as many of the students had first-hand experience of MDR-TB. Feedback, obtained from eight of the students, was generally positive.
The course, with summaries of the discussions, has been posted on the Open Online Courses site at http://ooc.peoples-uni.org where anyone can access to explore the course and its discussions. So far, a handful of people have taken advantage of this.
We conclude that it is possible to re-create a classroom exercise in Public Health online, and reach an international audience.