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Veterinary public health

Module information>

Academic Direction
The Royal Veterinary College
Modes of Study

This module will provide you with an overview of the role of the veterinary profession with respect to the protection of the health of the public. During the course, you will explore the avenues by which agents of disease can be transmitted from animals to people. You will be introduced to some of the methods that are used to evaluate the risk of transmission and consider how to protect the public from these hazards. Areas of controversy will be examined and you will be encouraged to reach your own informed views concerning these issues.

Topics covered

The module consists of 13 units of study, all of which you should complete. They make up the following three sections:

Section 1 Principles of Veterinary Public Health

In the introductory section (Units 1–3) the diverse nature of VPH is explored and your perceptions of what constitutes VPH will be challenged. Integral to this will be the realisation that the study of this subject does not stop at the farm gate, but extends throughout the production and marketing chain to the retail outlet. These introductory units will also introduce you to the concept that food may constitute a hazard to human health, and will show you how to measure the risk to consumer health. The third unit will outline some specific zoonoses and the factors that predispose to human infection.

Section 2 Control of Food Safety

The second section (Units 4–9) will build on the introductory module and you will concentrate on the control of the safety of particular food categories (e.g. red meat, dairy produce). By doing this, you will be able to focus the general approach developed in the introductory section onto specific areas of VPH.

Section 3 Contemporary Issues

The third section (Units 10–13) will allow you to explore a number of important contemporary issues in veterinary public health. The first of these issues is the One Health concept, and Unit 10 provides an introduction to the subject, discussing the contexts in which this concept can be applied. Also addressed in this section are antimicrobial resistance (Unit 11), the livestock–wildlife interface and its role in the transmission of zoonoses (Unit 12) and the place of veterinary public health in food security (Unit 13). The subject areas covered in this module are broad and these units provide you with the basis of key areas of discussion and debate.

Learning objectives

By the end of this module you should be able to:

  • discuss the role of the veterinary profession in the protection of public health.
  • provide your own definition of ‘quantitative risk assessment’ and describe the key features of this approach.
  • explain the important epidemiological features of zoonotic diseases and relate these to control strategies.
  • outline the various stages of the food chain that lead ‘from farm to fork’ and identify critical stages at which risks to public health may occur.
  • make an informed criticism of reports or other publications that relate to issues of veterinary public health.


Your work for this module will be assessed by means of a three-hour unseen written examination paper which will take the form of essay questions. In addition, you must submit at least one and up to three TMAs.

The grade awarded will be based on the mark obtained in the written examination (80%) and on the mark for the compulsory assignment (20%).

Module information sheets

Download the full module information sheet from the RVC website.