HL Case Studies: Health

Health Crisis in Venezuela

Venezuela has the largest proven oil reserves in the world. But in the last three years its economy has collapsed. Hunger has gripped the nation for years. Now, it’s killing children. The Venezuelan government knows, but won’t admit it. Doctors are seeing record numbers of children with severe malnutrition. Before Venezuela’s economy started spiraling, doctors say, almost all of the child malnutrition cases they saw in public hospitals stemmed from neglect or abuse by parents. But as the economic crisis began to intensify in 2015 and 2016, the number of cases of severe malnutrition at the nation’s leading pediatric health center in the capital more than tripled, doctors say. 2017 was even worse. (Source: NYT)

  • What is the situation in Venezuela? 

  • What led to the crisis?

  • What can be done to solve it?

We will look at the questions through a video and a reading.

Health Disparities in New York City

In New York City, there are some stark health disparities by race, income and immigration status across different neighborhoods. Life expectancy in Brownsville, Brooklyn is 11 years less than for residents in Stuyvesant Town and Turtle Bay. In Jackson Heights, Queens, over 22% of residents do not have health insurance compared to 4% on the Upper East Side. Black women in NYC are 12 times more likely to die of complications related to childbirth than White women.


In this case study, we will explore five different health disparities in NYC:

  • Life Expectancy

  • Infant and Maternal Mortality

  • Opioid Addiction and Overdoses

  • Asthma

  • Access to Health Insurance

West Africa Ebola Outbreak

In December 2013, an ebola outbreak began in Guinea and quickly spread to neighboring Liberia and Sierra Leone.  In August 2014, the WHO declared the West Africa Ebola outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. In January 2016, the WHO declared an official end to the outbreak. Over 11,300 people died

  • What was the West Africa Ebola outbreak?

  • Why were the impacts so devastating? 

  • How effective was the global response?


Through some videos, investigations, readings and a role play, we will begin to explore these questions.

America's Opioid Crisis

“Opioid addiction is America’s 50-state epidemic. It courses along Interstate highways in the form of cheap smuggled heroin, and flows out of “pill mill” clinics where pain medicine is handed out like candy. It has ripped through New England towns, where people overdose in the aisles of dollar stores, and it has ravaged coal country, where addicts speed-dial the sole doctor in town licensed to prescribe a medication.” (New York Times)

  • What are the causes, effects and possible solutions to this national crisis? 

  • What role should the government, including law enforcement, play in trying to solve problems of drug abuse and addiction?

  • Should illegal drugs like heroin and misused prescription opioids be primarily treated as a health crisis or a criminal problem?

We will explore these questions by watching some short films about the crisis, reading related articles, analyzing the politics of the war on drugs and discussing the best approach to the problem.​

Gender and HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa

There are an estimated 24.7 million people living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa, nearly 71% of the global total (which is around 36 million). Ten countries— Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, the United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe—account for 81% of all people living with HIV in the region and half of those are in only two countries—Nigeria and South Africa. There are also more women living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa than HIV-positive men: women account for 58% of the total number of people living with HIV.

Source: UNAIDS, The Gap Report 2014


  • What is the history of HIV/AIDS?

  • How does gender affect vulnerability to HIV/AIDS among young people?

  • What does a gendered-response to HIV/AIDS prevention look like?

  • How has the gendered nature of globalization in Sub-Saharan Africa  affected the HIV/AIDS epidemic?


Through an activity,  prezi, readings and discussions, we will begin to explore some of these questions.

Welcome to the World

Every year, 130 million babies are born and not one of them decides where they will be born or how they will live. In Cambodia, you’re likely to be born to a family living on less than $1 per day. In Sierra Leone, chances of surviving the first year are half those of the global average. In the USA, Starr’s new baby could soon be one of the 1.6 million homeless children now living in the streets. Click here to read more.


In this lesson, we will watch "Welcome to the World" a documentary that explores issues related to infant mortality, maternal health, life expectancy and HIV/AIDS in Cambodia, Sierra Leone and the USA.

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