Sick Around the World

FEATURED LESSON PLAN: "An Urgent Choice For The United States: How To Reform Health Care"


Lesson Objectives:

Students will:

  • Become familiar with and understand the five health insurance and health care systems featured in Sick Around the World;
  • Explore in greater depth one of the systems in the film;
  • Participate in discussions to explore possibilities for reforming the health insurance and health care system in the United States; and
  • Write a position paper recommending a plan for reforming health insurance and care in the United States.


Materials Needed:

  • Internet access
  • FRONTLINE documentary Sick Around the World
  • Copies of Student Handouts


Time Needed:

  • Background and context -- 3-4 minutes
  • Watching video segment -- 10 minutes
  • Lesson -- 75 minutes



Step One: Background and Context

  • Before viewing the video clip, provide background and context to students. Explain that, unlike access to education, access to health care is not guaranteed in the United States.
  • Point out that in the United States senior citizens and veterans receive government sponsored health care through Medicare and the Veterans Administration. Most other Americans, however, receive health care insurance either through their employers (with employees sharing the cost) or through insurance that they pay for by themselves.
  • If Americans do not get health insurance through employment and cannot afford to buy it themselves, they often go without insurance and then, sometimes, without care. According to the documentary, more than 700,000 Americans go bankrupt each year as a result of medical expenses, and some of those who go bankrupt are covered, but not completely, by health insurance.


Step Two: Focus on An Urgent Choice for the United States: How to Reform Health Care

  • Briefly review with students the organization of the film: examining health insurance and care through the examples of systems in Great Britain, Japan, Germany, Taiwan and Switzerland.
  • Distribute the VIEWING QUESTIONS: Student Handout #1 to students, and instruct them to answer the questions on the handout after they view the film clip.
  • Show Chapter 5, "Switzerland," from the FRONTLINE program at Show to the end of the excerpt, to the image of the United States Capitol.
  • After viewing the clip and allowing students to complete their handouts, discuss the questions as a full class.
  • Divide the class into four groups and assign the groups as follows:
    • Group One: United Kingdom
    • Group Two: Japan
    • Group Three: Germany
    • Group Four: Taiwan
  • Distribute COMPARING HEALTH CARE: Student Handout #2 to all students. Briefly go over the information already on the handout for Switzerland and for the United States. Explain to students that the information on the chart for the United States is for purposes of comparison.
  • Instruct students to work together to fill in the section of the handout for the country to which they have been assigned. The Sick Around the World Web site, starting with will provide some of the needed information. If time and Internet access permit, students can also watch the segment about their country online at
  • When all four groups have finished, meet as a whole class to compare findings. (The teacher should either draw the chart on the board or prepare an overhead transparency of the chart as students are working in groups and then should fill in the chart as students speak.)
  • Ask each country group to reassemble for a few minutes to assess its country's health insurance and health care program in comparison to other the countries.
  • A whole-class debriefing will follow, with spokespersons for each country group sharing what they see as the strengths and weaknesses of their system.
  • As a culminating exercise, each student will write an individual, one-page proposal to her or his Congressperson, advocating a specific set of recommendations to improve health insurance and care in the United States. This exercise can be done in class or as homework.
  • The teacher can invite a few students to read their papers to the class as a spur to whole-class discussion about potential U.S. solutions to health care reform.
  • Students may submit their one-page proposals to the teacher for assessment.


Assessment Recommendations:

  • Assess students' involvement in the discussion questions and activities.
  • Evaluate students' participation in their small group discussions and in the whole-class discussions at the conclusion of the lesson.
  • Evaluate each student's one-page recommendation for how to reform health care in the United States.
home » previous reports » watch online » about us » teacher center » newsletter »  rss feeds » email FRONTLINE » privacy policy » wgbh » pbs

FRONTLINE is a registered trademark of WGBH Educational Foundation
Web Site Copyright ©1995-2014 WGBH Educational Foundation