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Public Health, Philadelphia, and the World

Now in the 21st century, Philadelphia's medical connections stretch fully across all areas of the city, the greater Delaware Valley, and the globe, spanning several health care and research sectors. In fact, from the colonial era into modernity, Philadelphians have been involved in public medical matters that have reached across the globe, as well as in the development of important institutions that have become landmarks of both history and medicine.


18th century

19th century

20th century

Colonial period


World War I



Science and Medicine

Big Ideas

Pennsylvania History

Perspective on Events

Essential Questions

How can the story of another American, past or present, influence your life?

How does continuity and change within Pennsylvania history influence your community today?

What role do multiple causations play in describing a historic event?

Background Material for Teacher

"Epidemics and Public Health in Pennsylvania," Pennsylvania Legacies, vol. 19 no. 1.

End of Unit Assessment

There are many ways that student groups can show how much they learned, including comparing and contrasting historical and current public health matters (including their treatment, care, education, etc.). Insights into how what our city has experienced and is experiencing will enable a better understanding of both medical heritage of the past and health crises of today.

  • Students can create a poster exhibit to show the differences/similarities in Philadelphia's and the international community's history for treating influenza;

  • students can write analytical essays to answer some of the Essential Questions;

  • students can utilize a literature approach and create stories or graphic novels based on specific public health crises or issues from Philadelphia's past or present life, with inspiration drawn from such works as The Contagious City by Simon Finger, Fever  (a film created by "History Making Productions") or The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How it Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World.

Utilizing best practices and other strategies, teachers can create numerous adjustments and extensions to make this topic accessible, interesting, and challenging to their students. Here are a few possibilities:

  • A teacher of English Language Learners (ELL) may wish to begin with the international setting, rather than Philadelphia. These students may have a wide and deep knowledge of public health matters in their home countries that can enable them to share cultural and other information with their fellow classmates and the broader school community. They can show how much they know through the creation of a video that gives them flexibility in their developing English capability, or the creation of a world map that shows flows of past and current health issues on a global scale. The teacher can pair ELL students with higher ability students in working groups for completion of research and presentation tasks, including allowing collaborative writing.

  • A teacher of gifted and talented students may wish to assign formal analytical essays that answer several of the EQs based on student groups' research and conclusions, along with submission of primary documents that the research located.

  • A teacher of Special Education (SE) students may wish to create scaffolded graphic organizers (or other worksheets) to guide any comparing or contrasting of public health issues/ If possible, SE students may develop posters or other visual displays to show what they have learned, share information orally, or write short sentences about their conclusion.


Plans in this Unit

Public Health, Philadelphia, and the World

Grade Level

Middle School

High School

About the Author

Sarah Sharp is the World Heritage Education Consultant at the Global Philadelphia Association.


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Attention Teachers!

Let us know how you used this plan and be featured on our site! Submit your story here.

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