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Disease Role Play

By Chris Kuka


Students will develop an action plan in collaborative groups addressing a new disease. This activity provides 3 roles for student participation: scientists, public health officials and community leaders. Each member will be required to remain within the parameters described by the scenario during the role play. For example, the scientist will be given a data sheet the they will need to interpret. This person will be the only one having knowledge of the disease. This person will only act as a disease expert.Once the members have an opportunity to read their scenarios and prepare for a committee meeting, they will meet and devise an action plan.

Action Plan:

The action plan will contain the following information:

  1. The actions taken by the committee to help inform the community about the disease.

  2. Each participantUs responsibilities for the above actions.

  3. The actions taken by the committee to treat individuals with the disease.

  4. The participantUs responsibilities for treatment.


Each collaborative group will contain three participants. Each participant will be assigned one of the following roles:

1. Scientist
Describes the disease to the group and interprets the available data allowing for decisions to be made.

2. Public Health Official
Provides information about the available resources a public health agency can provide.

3. Community leader
Provides information about the available resources the community can provide.

Role Play Scenarios

  1. Student selects a role and reads the scenario. Each scenario will require the student to interpret information to prepare for a committee meeting.

  2. Participate in a meeting with other people creating an action plan for dealing with the disease.

  3. Writing an action plan as a committee satisfying all of the members and the requirements.

  4. Students reflect on their participation and the product.

Scientists Role

Students role-playing scientists must remain objective during the process. Currently, the information about the virus is incomplete. It is a newly described strain of a retro-virus similar to HIV. The incubation period is unknown but speculated at six months for children 0-5, one year for children 6-18 and 1-5 years for adults 18-??. The transmission is also unknown but thought to be contracted through the air.

The virus does not appear fatal (yet) but causes a deteriorate of the autonomic nervous system. Once the virus is contracted, it remains in the host indefinitely.

As the scientist, you must present to the group the following information:

  1. A reproductive cycle for a retro-virus.
  2. A summary of the above information.
  3. A suggested plan for the community to deal with the virus consistent with the scientific evidence.

Public Health Official Role

Students role-playing the public health official must perform some research in the community. You must find a community agency that is concerned with public health. Find out the role or purpose of the agency and the resources available.

As the Public Health Official, you must present to the group the following information:

  1. The purpose of your agency.
  2. A summary of the resources available for the community.
  3. A plan to educate the community about this new virus.

Community Leader

Students role-playing the community leader must be aware of their constituents. The voting public are 45% home owners and 55% renters. They are very aware of the epidemic but not knowledgeable about the virus. They also are unwilling to spend more on taxes to combat the epidemic. The public wants to be informed about the virus but is uninterested in actively becoming involved in prevention measures. Your elected term is over next year and the plan you help create may have an affect on your reelection.

As the community leader, students must present to the group the following information:

  1. Your policy on the epidemic (what you are willing to do and support) and the extent of your commitment to developing a plan for the community.
  2. A list of the population segments most affected by the epidemic.
  3. A budget proposal incorporating the necessary ideas from the group.

Student Reflection Questions

  1. Why did you select the role you participated in?
  2. In what ways (describe at least two) is this action plan a strong/weak example of what you are capable of doing?
  3. How does this action plan show that your skills, knowledge or attitudes are changing?
  4. What do you find satisfying about the finished action plan?

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