Problem based learning project


Return of an old enemy

                Watching the news on April 2nd 2014 many people choked on their morning coffee. Measles cases were detected again in New York. You are one of these people. And you might even choke on your toast while you’re at it. The number of cases keeps climbing up still and public conversation gets more heated on the internet as well as in media. According to CDC “Before measles vaccine, nearly all children got measles by the time they were 15 years of age. Each year in the United States about 450-500 people died because of measles, 48,000 were hospitalized, 7,000 had seizures, and about 1,000 suffered permanent brain damage or deafness.”

                There is another reason for your unease too. You work for the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and will need to work on the public relations aspect of the outbreak to the citizens of New York. You are worried because the movement against vaccinations has gained a lot of publicity and has led to decrease in childhood vaccinations in some areas. Pointing out the misconceptions in a wrong way could alienate people and lead to failure of your communication efforts.

                Your goal is to effectively inform a public group assigned to you about the measles outbreak and recommend actions they should take. Tell what measles is, how they can get it, and how the vaccine exactly works. The products you need to prepare are take-home material and a 10 minute oral presentation to the target audience. In the end you will give this presentation and take part in a Q & A session. The in class group work will be evaluated by your group members, TA’s, and the teacher. The quality of the presentation, hand out material, and answers in Q&A session are evaluated by the teacher and other faculty members present.

                Start your exploration before first problem solving session by reading a report by New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene from March 7th, 2014. Also read and watch the video on NBC New York (channel 4) web page.

NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene:

NBC New York:


During our first session on Measles outbreak we will familiarize ourselves with the target audience. Some questions to help you get started:

  • What kind of housing situation do they have?
  • How is their economic situation?
  • What kind of access do they have for health care?
  • What previous information on vaccines do they likely have?
  • What language do they speak?

In your groups, discuss this and get an idea of what sort of information is needed in the hand outs and presentation. Form a list of questions you need to answer via literature searches to explain measles, and vaccination to the target audience clearly and with scientific data to back your information up.

The second session will be used to prepare the hand out material. Include pictures and flowcharts if needed. Further your research on the topic before the next session.

Third session is used to prepare the 10 minute presentation. You can use PowerPoint, Prezi, or plan a talk without computer assistance. Check your facts and ponder on the possible questions the target audience could have for you based on the presentation before the final session.

Fourth, final, session is used for the group presentations and the Q&A session. The hand out material should be delivered at this time.

Here are some links for you to start the research:

Use the US National Library of Medicine to find scientific studies, and reviews to support your message.

Feel free to contact a librarian to help with your search:

  • Victoria T Kok, (Head of Veterinary Medicine library; includes biomedical sciences and pathobiology)
  • Rebecca Miller, (College Librarian for Sciences, Life Sciences, and Engineering; includes medicine and population health sciences)

If you want to practice for the Q&A session, go to the Communications Lab at Virginia Tech library:

The anti-vaccination supporters often base their fears of vaccines on the already retracted research by Andrew Wakefield:

Immunization schedules:

Extra information:

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