AFMC Primer on Population Health

About the Primer

The Public Health Educators’ Network (PHEN) was formed in 2007 by The Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada (AFMC) with funding from the Public Health Agency of Canada, and has representatives from all seventeen Canadian medical schools. Its mission is to improve the teaching of public health in medical education.  One of its first decisions was to develop an e-textbook on Population Health in Canada suitable for medical students. This Primer is the result of that decision.

The Primer is meant to be used by medical students and others who work or are aiming to work in clinical settings. It is not intended for those preparing for a career in Public Health. We have tried to set out the core concepts of public health in a way that demonstrates their relevance to clinical medicine. We have designed the Primer to address the Medical Council of Canada’s public health learning objectives, which were developed by the PHEN. We hope to make the subject of public health interesting to clinicians and future clinicians to enable them to incorporate public health in clinical practice. We also hope to inspire at least some to follow the links to further reading references to deepen their knowledge of the subject.

Other PHEN projects include the development of a repertory of teaching resources, the fostering of public health interest groups among medical students, and the production of an environmental scan, Best Practices in Public Health Undergraduate Medical Education.

Editors and Content Development +

Denise Donovan, Université de Sherbrooke: Centre de formation médicale du Nouveau-Brunswick
Ian McDowell, University of Ottawa
with Duncan Hunter during 2008 and 2009, Queen’s University

The text was developed as a collaborative project. The three editors, all PHEN members, developed the outline structure. The editors, PHEN members and their colleagues contributed the content and the editors then integrated and completed the text. Throughout the process, PHEN members and selected experts offered comments and corrections until the text was shaped into its beta-version. This was submitted to wider group of experts and to students for comments on style, presentation and content. We encourage readers to continue to comment so that the Primer will continue to be improved.

Authors & PHEN Members +

Contributing authors and members of the AFMC Public Health Educators’ Network (PHEN) are listed by their faculty of medicine from west to eastern Canada.
‡ indicates a contributing author.
◊ indicates a PHEN member. Their years of involvement are indicated in parentheses.

AFMC would especially like to acknowledge and thank Denise Donovan and Ian McDowell for all their hard work to make the Primer a reality.

University of British Columbia

‡ ◊ Rick Mathias (2007-2010)
◊ Jane Buxton (since 2010)


University of Alberta


‡ ◊ Jim Talbot (2007-2010)
◊ Chris Sikora (since 2010)


University of Calgary

‡ ◊ Laura McLeod (since 2007)
◊ Ghazwan  Altabbaa (2009-2010)
‡ Jim Dickinson


University of Saskatchewan

◊ Bruce Reeder (since 2007)
◊ Stephen Whitehead (since 2009)
‡ Allen Backman

University of Manitoba

◊ Joel Kettner (since 2007)
◊ Gladys Stewart (since 2007)
◊ Sharon Macdonald (since 2009)
‡ William Libich

Northern Ontario School of Medicine

‡ ◊ Vera Etches (2007-2008)
◊ Dar Malaviarachchi (since 2008)

University of Western Ontario

‡ ◊ Mark Speechley (since 2007)

McMaster University

‡ ◊ Julie Emili (since 2007)

Queen’s University

‡ ◊ Duncan Hunter (2007-2010)
◊Beatriz Alvarado (since 2010)

University of Ottawa

‡ ◊ Ian McDowell (since 2007)

University of Toronto

‡ ◊ Ian Johnson (PHEN Chair 2007-2011)
◊ Fran Scott (since 2011)
‡ Ross Upshur

McGill University

◊ Gilles Paradis (since 2007)
‡Joe Cox

Université de Montréal

◊ Brigitte Maheux (since 2007)

Université de Sherbrooke

‡ ◊ Denise Donovan (since 2007. Current PHEN Chair)

Université Laval

◊ Jean-Paul Fortin (2007-2008)
‡ ◊ Yv Bonnier-Viger (since 2008)

Dalhousie University

◊ Bruce Holmes (since 2007)

Memorial University, Newfoundland

‡ ◊ Catherine Donovan (since 2007)
‡ Christine Kennedy

Project Management +

The Primer on Population Health is a project of The Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada.  Congratulations to our project management team on a job well done.

Barbie Shore, Project Manager – Public Health, Indigenous Health
Melissa Shahin, Project Associate – Public Health, Canadian Healthcare Education Commons
Sue Maskill, Former Vice President Education & Special Projects
Jean Parboosingh, Consultant
Catherine Peirce, Project Manager - Canadian Healthcare Education Commons

Reviewers +

Medical students, residents, educators, physicians and public health experts were asked to review the Primer and generously contributed their time. We thank them for the contributions which enhanced the first version of the Primer, launched in 2011. 

Nada Abdel-Malek

Kristen Jacklin

John Meagher

Ed Ellis

Ji-Hyun Jang

Azar Mehrabadi

Jill Alston

Jalila Jbilou

Silvina Mema

Anne Andermann

Yun Jen

Uthra Mohan

Daniele Behn-Smith

Marcella Kafka

Julie (Ioulia) Napolskikh

France Bellisle

Marc Kawaja

Boluwaji Ogunyemi

Yv Bonnier-Viger

Gary Ko

Conar O’Neil

Andrew Boozary

Karen Trollope-Kumar

Elizabeth Robinson

Marie-Ludivine Chateau-Degat

Louise Lajoie

Carly Scramstad

Marie-Helene Chomienne

Odette Laplante

André Simpson

Ari Doumouras

Tyler Law

Bob Spasoff

Jane Dunstan

Paule Lebel

Sean T. Sullivan

Patrick Fleming

Kayi Li

Rachel Talavlikar

Filgen Fung

Christina Liak

Ingrid Tyler

Sahil Gupta

Jennifer Loo

Stephanie Vandenberg

Monica Hau

Andrew Machuk

Nathaniel Winata

Jamie Hockin

Megan McCreary


Funding +

The production of the Primer was funded through a contribution agreement generously provided by the Public Health Agency of Canada, Office of Public Health Practice, Professional Development Division.

Support in kind from the Centre de formation médicale du Nouveau Brunswick with the Université de Sherbrooke, the University of Ottawa and Queen’s University is gratefully acknowledged.

Website +

The Primer website was designed and developed by the Media Access and Production (eMAP) division of the University of Saskatchewan.  Thanks to the development team for their good ideas and dedication.

Randy Skurdal, Manager, New Media, Production Services
Ian Jensen, Media Developer
Carrie Gates, Media Developer

Interpretation and Translation +

A comprehensive translation and interpretation process was undertaken for the French version of the Primer.  Two translators were hired for their complementary skills. Mélanie Prevost Shureih of ad litteram who has a strong background in medical linguistics made the initial interpretation and translation, which was then reviewed by Marie Cousineau, whose translation work includes the Canadian Journal of Public Health. Their drafts were reviewed by Primer editors, Denise Donovan and Ian McDowell and the final draft was then reviewed by Francophone public health physicians and experts. The editors considered the reviewers’ feedback before finalizing the text.

Thanks to Mélanie and Marie for their dedication to this project; and also to Yv Bonnier-Viger of Université Laval and Gilles Paradis of McGill University for their assistance.

Copyright +

Use of the AFMC Primer on Population Health site and content is subject to our Creative Commons License and other terms of use. Please see the full copyright and terms of use.