Medical developments have made some devastating diseases things of the past, or manageable enough to live with. Ask students to record an oral history on the polio epidemic. Each student should interview an adult who can recall the period before the polio vaccine was available (pre-1953). Before the interviews, help students generate ideas for questions, such as: Did people worry about getting polio? How did they try to protect themselves or their children against it? Did you know anyone who contracted polio; if so, what happened? What do you remember most about those times?
Later, provide an opportunity for students to share what they've learned. If any students taped (video or audio) their interview, they may want to play a portion for the class (with the subject's permission). Have students note similarities in interviewees' experiences, and draw conclusions about the epidemic. Discuss with students how their own lives might have been different if the polio vaccine and other "miracle drugs" had not been developed. The video segment on penicillin can enrich this discussion. Make sure students understand that the polio vaccine prevents an illness, while antibiotics like penicillin treat illnesses.
Medicine and Health Program Contents