The following adaptable classroom activities suggest various approaches for introducing and/or extending learning on world health. They are inspired by a conversation between Bill Moyers and Bill Gates from the 5/9/03 NOW WITH BILL MOYERS broadcast. (Note: A free transcript of this interview is available on the NOW Web site. Teachers may also tape the broadcast off-air and use it in the classroom for one year. Alternatively, programs are available for purchase from ShopPBS.)
1. What Are The World's Biggest Health Threats?
Have students make a list of all of the diseases they personally have been vaccinated against. (You may wish to have them do this as a homework assignment since many students may need to look it up or ask their parents.) Next, have them list the diseases they think kill the most people worldwide every year. Then have them take NOW's online world health quiz and compare their results to their earlier lists. Discuss the results and why they turned out the way they did. Note the diseases that have been eradicated in the United States but are still problems in undeveloped countries.
2. How Does An Epidemic Occur?
Illustrating how quickly a disease can spread can help students better identify its impact on a culture, individual and community. Distribute to all students a small clear plastic cup. Fill each cup half full with water, except for one. In that cup, put 5 ml. of sodium hydroxide. Explain to students that they can share the fluid in their cups with up to three people. If they choose to share, they need to pour the fluid of one cup into the other and then split the liquid of that cup back into the two cups. Once this has been done, explain to students that the fluid in their cups represents the exchange of bodily fluids that occurs with sexual contact. Then, "test" all of them for HIV/AIDS by walking around the room and adding 2-3 drops of phenolphthalein. Some of the cups will remain clear, "testing" HIV negative; others will turn pink, indicating HIV positive. Next, share the HIV/AIDS statistics and discuss ways to prevent an epidemic such as AIDS.
3. Preventing Childhood Deaths
Display items that could be used for oral rehydration therapy (or ORT), such as water, Pedialyte, and Gatorade. Explain to students that such resources can save lives by replacing water and electrolytes lost, for example, from diarrhea. Point out to students that in the United States, most children suffer from a bout of diarrhea at some point in their lives, but that it is typically not life threatening. In developing countries, however, diarrhoeal diseases claim the lives of about 1.5 million children under five each year because their bodies are weakened through rapid loss of fluids and undernourished through lack of food. Have students explore this world health issue further by reading how Mexico is addressing this problem. Details, including a graph, can be found at the World Health Organization's Web site.
4. SARS: A New Global Health Threat
Show students pictures of people wearing facemasks in public to protect themselves from Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS. Then, review the Timeline and Spread in Key Nations features of The ONLINE NEWSHOUR's "Combating SARS" report. Discuss ways that the World Health Organization is attempting to combat the spread of this viral disease, as well as why people in the United States should concern itself with global health issues.
5. The Realities of Disease
Help students understand the human impact of disease by reading segments of Robert Bilheimer's journal. Bilheimer recorded his thoughts in letters home as he traveled the world to produce a documentary on the HIV/AIDS epidemic. As students read his vivid descriptions of the burdens of dealing with HIV/AIDS, discuss the social, economic, and political effects of disease on individuals, families, and communities.
About the Author
Donna DeTommaso-Kleinert is an elementary physical education teacher at Hatfield Elementary School in the North Penn School District Lansdale, Pa. She has participated on the writing team for the Pennsylvania State Health and Physical Education Standards and coordinates and presents the new teacher induction program. She has been in the teaching profession for 20 years with experiences in elementary and secondary health and physical education and also as a learning coordinator of all the special area curricula. Presently she is enrolled in a curriculum and instruction program in the Department of Kinesology at Temple University. Her proudest accomplishments have come from motherhood and marriage.