Rx for Survival — A Global Health Challenge

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For Teachers

These games, debates, and experiments explore topics covered in Rx for Survival. Appropriate for Grades 7-12 social studies, science, and health classes, they include pre- and post-viewing questions, procedures, student sheets, discussion questions, assessments, and resources. You can do one, some, or all of the activities in any order, and they can be completed with or without watching the programs.


Help students make the connection between their lives, their health, and global health by making Rx for Survival part of your science, social studies, or health class. Each of the teacher guide's six lessons tackles a different global health topic — vaccines, vector-borne diseases, antibiotic-resistance, delivering health aid, the link between diet and disease, and how public health systems can contain disease. You can do one, some, or all of the activities in any order.

Understanding the issues is an important step for ensuring better health

Too often, young people are unaware of what keeps them healthy and what health issues put them at risk. Around the world, millions lack access to basic sanitation, clean water, and nutritious food, creating a potent breeding ground for infectious disease. Dangerous diseases that are rare in the U.S., like tuberculosis, are making a strong comeback in many places. Air travel can deliver distant health problems directly to our communities. Today, infectious disease knows no borders — global health IS local health. The six-part PBS series, Rx for Survival — A Global Health Challenge, explores today's major health challenges and what individuals and nations are doing to overcome them. These lessons can be completed with or without watching the programs.

The teacher guide examines major global health topics

The teacher guide can help your 7-12th grade science, social studies, or health class understand the scientific, social, and political dimensions of global health.

Each activity includes:

  • Program connection: Describes how the lesson connects to the program.
  • Lesson overview: Summarizes the procedure, learning goals, and student products.
  • Pre- and post-viewing questions: Facilitates introducing and analyzing a topic.
  • Activities: Helps students explore issues faced by health care organizations, governments, and community members through hands-on, classroom-based games, debates, and experiments. Detailed procedure includes teacher notes, discussion questions, and answers.
  • Student sheets: Guides students through an activity and provides analysis questions.
  • Assessments: Identifies benchmarks for evaluating student participation and work.
  • Standards: Correlates lessons to national geography, social studies, and health standards.
  • Resources: Provides a bibliography of books and Web links related to each topic.

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Program 1: Disease Warriors

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Just what do vaccines protect against? How do they work? Can vaccines really help eradicate major infectious diseases? Students play two games to model how vaccines protect a population. They then research diseases found in particular regions, assess whether vaccines are a viable way to address these diseases, and examine barriers to getting vaccines to those in need.
Activity type: Simulation and group work. Grades 7-12. Duration: 1 class period. Preparation time: 15 minutes.

Program 2: Rise of the Superbugs

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How do germs change and become more dangerous? In this activity, students follow the story of a girl battling antibiotic-resistant bacteria, studying graphs to identify critical points in her treatment. They examine how bacteria become resistant to antibiotics via the process of natural selection and see how the overuse and misuse of antibiotics puts individuals and the public at risk.
Activity type: Graph reading and group work. Grades 9-12. Duration: 2 class periods. Preparation time: 10 minutes.

Program 3: Delivering the Goods

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If modern medicine can prevent, treat, and cure most diseases, why can't millions of people get the medicines they need? In this activity, students study a map of a fictitious rural area and develop plans to administer a flu vaccine to the people living there. The challenge is to immunize the most people in the least time at the lowest cost. The game introduces students to the kinds of difficulties aid organizations face in getting medical care to people who need it.
Activity type: Map-based game and debate. Grades 7-12. Duration: 1 class period. Preparation time: 10 minutes.

Program 4: Deadly Messengers

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Mosquitoes spread diseases that kill millions of people each year. What's the best way to control them? Students examine mosquitoes as a vector of disease -- locally and globally -- and debate different methods for preventing the spread of mosquito-borne diseases, such as West Nile virus.
Activity type: Role-play and debate. Grades 7-12. Duration: 2 class periods. Preparation time: 15 minutes.

Program 5: Back to the Basics

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How is health related to nutrition? Students use MyPyramid (the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Web-based diet-analysis tool) to analyze five diets, including their own. Some of these diets can cause diseases related to nutrient deficiencies. Students use MyPyramid to devise strategies to prevent these diseases by supplementing the deficient diets.
Activity type: Computer-based interactive. Grades 7-12. Duration: 2-3 class periods. Preparation time: 30 minutes.

Program 6: How Safe Are We?

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What are germs, and where do they lurk? How do you pinpoint where a disease got started? How can we prevent the spread of disease? Students play the role of health investigators and identify potential hotspots for microbes in their school. They collect and culture microbial samples, identify factors that promote the growth of microbes, and recommend ways to reduce their numbers (and the potential for spreading disease).
Activity type: Experiment. Grades 7-12. Duration: 2 class periods. Preparation time: 30 minutes

More Resources for Educators

For additional classroom content, please visit:
PBS TeacherSource