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the alternative fix



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Pre-Viewing Lesson Plan
  • What is Complementary and Alternative Medicine?
  • Student Handout: What is Alternative and Complementary Medicine?

  • Viewing Lesson Plan
  • Student Viewing Guides
  • Student Handout: True and False Questions
  • Student Handout: Short Answers

  • Post-Viewing Lesson Plans
  • Regulating Drugs: The Creation of the FDA
  • The Progressive Era: Public Pressure and Government Actions

  • Internet Resources

    Printable .pdf of Entire Guide
    (Adobe Acrobat required)

    » About the film:

    Over the past few years the popularity -- and profitability -- of complementary and alternative medicine has exploded. Under pressure from everyone from consumers to Congress -- and tempted by huge grants -- major hospitals and medical schools have embraced therapies that they once dismissed as quackery. So accepted, in fact, have alternative medical treatments become that an entire center of the National Institutes of Health is now devoted to it. But the question remains: Do these treatments actually work? FRONTLINE examines the controversy over complementary and alternative medical treatments.

    Visit the "The Alternative Fix" Web site for more on this story.

    » A Note to Teachers:

    • For classes in Social Studies, Language Arts and Current Events; Grade level 9th-12th

    These teaching activities are designed to help students explore the history of the government's involvement in medicine, the popularity of alternative medicine in today's society and the dangers that some alternative medicines may pose.

    According to a 1991 national survey, one-third of the population acknowledged using alternative medicine. Currently, Americans spend $48 billion a year on alternative therapies. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) defines complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) as "a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not presently considered to be part of conventional medicine." The NCCAM Web site goes on to state: "While some scientific evidence exists regarding some CAM therapies, for most there are key questions that are yet to be answered through well-designed scientific studies -- questions such as whether they are safe and whether they work for the diseases or medical conditions for which they are used." The FRONTLINE documentary "The Alternative Fix" examines some of the myriad alternative practices, supplements and therapies, as well as the motivations of those who pursue them. This program provides a provocative picture of health care today and provides an avenue for students to:

    • Explore their understanding of current health issues
    • Research the development of the Federal Drug Administration
    • Examine how literature and media influence public policy

    » Lesson Plans

    Pre-Viewing Lesson Plan:
    What is Complementary and Alternative Medicine?
    Students will identify the various kinds of CAM through large group discussion and individual research.


    Viewing Lesson Plan:
    Student Viewing Guides
    Teachers can assign one of two Viewing Guides -- a true and false guide or a short answer guide -- which requires students to take notes on key practices and individuals depicted in the film.


    Post-Viewing Lesson Plans:
    Regulating Drugs: The Creation of the FDA
    Students will learn about the history and function of the FDA. They will look at the concerns facing society today and compare them to the problems of the Progressive Era.

    The Progressive Era: Public Pressure and Government Actions
    Using E-books online, students will read sections of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle and examine societal problems and solutions during the Progressive Era.

    » Purchasing the Video

    "The Alternative Fix" can be purchased from ShopPBS for Teachers. [Also please note: FRONTLINE is streaming the entire film online on the "The Alternative Fix" Web site.]

    » Credits

    This teacher guide was developed by Simone Bloom Nathan of Media Education Consultants. It was written by Pat Grimmer, chair of the Social Studies Department at Carbondale Community High School in Carbondale Illinois. Ellen Greenblatt of University High School San Francisco was an adviser.

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