Have students read An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Treatment, which explores treatments and measures for preventing infectious diseases. Students should understand that while antibiotics can be effective for eliminating bacterial infections, no such treatments are available at present for viral diseases. At best, drugs can alleviate the symptoms, which may help the body’s immune system function more effectively to clear the infection. Students consider measures that can prevent disease and why prevention is more cost effective than treating a disease. Students are introduced to vaccines as a major preventative measure against infectious diseases.
In this activity students design an effective plan for treatment (if any exists) and prevention of one disease on the Timeline of Infectious Diseases.
Working individually, with a partner or in teams, they use information on the timeline and any other information they can find about the disease, and information from Reading 2 “protection from infection” to design an intervention that will treat and/or prevent the disease.
The purpose of this activity is to have students consider the challenges of eliminating infectious diseases, particularly in low- and middle-income countries where the costs of improving infrastructure could be prohibitive and access to medical care could be difficult.
They should also recognize that changing human behavior whether based in religious or personal beliefs could be challenging. This issue was addressed also in Module 2 – Seeking the Cause.
Alternatively this activity could be conducted as a game. In this game students design an intervention for a disease and have an unexpected event interfere with their plan such that they must redesign their plan. The purpose of this game is to help students get a feel for the complexity of designing plans for public health because of many different variables and unanticipated events.
Prepare two types of cards:
- Disease cards – each card would have a disease from the timeline and information about that disease that would include the biology of the infectious agent and the context for the epidemic (e.g. cholera in 19th century London)
- Turn of Event cards – Each card would have some event that presented an event or challenge that affected the treatment or prevention of the disease (e.g. a power failure at the clinic resulted in loss of the vaccines because of lack of refrigeration or a visitor arrived yesterday from a neighboring country where an outbreak has been reported. Today the visitor is exhibiting symptoms of the disease).
- Divide the class into teams and give each team a Disease card.
- Have each team develop a plan for treating the disease and preventing its spread.
- When the teams have completed their plans, hand them a “Turn of Event card” that may disrupt their carefully designed plan. Their challenge is now to redesign their plan to account for the unexpected turn of events.
- Have students share their plans and revised plans with the class.