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Choosing who to treat

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Educational Objective

Students consider the factors that interact when deciding who to treat in a disease outbreak, and the possible consequences of these decisions

Divide students into groups of 4 or 5, and give groups about 10 minutes to play the ‘Managing an Epidemic’ interactive about the fictional disease, fish flu

Now present groups with this scenario:

  • ‘Cheese flu’ has broken out in local schools.  It is a nasty illness that makes you sick and tired for several weeks, but at the moment it doesn’t appear to be life-threatening.
  • An urgent announcement has just been made to all head teachers that schools must take action to stop it spreading
  • The pharmaceutical company has given you trial drug free of charge, but there is only enough to treat 40 people
  • The Health advisor has said that certain groups are ‘priority’ for treatment, but in your school there are too many of them for everyone to get help. 
  • Your task is to choose how to distribute the drug – you can share it out however you want, but you only have enough for 40 people.
  •  

    Priority groups:

  • Head teacher and assistant heads (8 people)
  • All school managers (heads of departments, heads of years etc) (20 people)
  • Students who are about to sit their exams (100 people)
  • Students off the premises on a school trip to a  known infected area (30 people)
  • A group of primary school children who have come to visit (30 people including 2 teachers)

    Give groups 10-15 minutes to discuss who they would treat for cheese flu? Ask them also to discuss what would happen to the people they didn’t choose to treat and what advice everyone should be given. Make sure all members of each group make a note of their decisions, or write their choices on the board.

    Now create ‘envoy’ groups – number members of current groups, then tell all 1s to get together in a new group, all 2s, etc. 
    Give the envoy groups 10 minutes to share their decisions from round 1, then to decide on a final recommendation about who should be treated, and the reasons why.

    Finally, take 10-15 minutes to ask each envoy group to feed back their decision, and to describe how they came to a consensus.  You might want to ask some prompt questions such as:

    Did you all have similar or very different ideas?
    Why do you think all the groups ended up with similar / very different recommendations?
    Which group are you most likely to belong to?  Would your view be different if you were a teacher, a head teacher, on the trip etc….