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CNN Presents Classroom: CNN 25: Health and Medicine


(CNN Student News) -- Set your VCR to record the CNN Special Classroom Edition: CNN 25: Health and Medicine when it airs commercial-free on Monday, December 19, 2005 from 4:00-- 5:00 a.m. ET on CNN.

Program Overview

As CNN celebrates its 25th year as the world's news leader, CNN 25 looks at the prominent events, thinkers and issues that have defined the news in the last quarter-century. From leaders in health and medicine to pioneers in technology, bright personalities from sports to entertainment, CNN 25 looks at the most influential moments and personalities of our time. In this installment, CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta hosts an hour-long countdown of the top 25 medical stories of the last quarter-century.

Grade Levels: 7-12

Subject Areas: Science, Technology and Society, Current Events, Ethics, Sociology


The CNN Special Classroom Edition: CNN 25: Health and Medicine and its corresponding discussion questions and activities challenge students to:

  • Identify the top health and medical stories from the past 25 years and examine how they relate to their own lives;
  • Analyze the impact of medical developments on society;
  • Evaluate the economic, social and political factors that can affect medical developments;
  • Examine the ethical debates that arise from some medical developments;
  • Predict the top medical stories for the next 25 years.
  • Curriculum Connections

    The Curriculum Standards for Social Studies

    Standard VIII. Science, Technology and Society: Students will examine the relationships among science, technology and society.

    The Curriculum Standards for Social Studiesexternal link ( are published by the National Council for the Social Studiesexternal link (


    Standard 3: Understands the relationships among science, technology, society, and the individual

    (Grade 9-12)

    Benchmark 5. Knows examples of advanced and emerging technologies and how they could impact society.

    Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education (Copyright 2000 McREL) is published online by Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McRELexternal link) (, 2550 S. Parker Road, Suite 500, Aurora, CO 80014; Telephone: 303/337-0990.

    Discussion Questions

    1. Of the top 25 health and medical stories from the last 25 years, why do you think that the human genome was selected as the most important? Do you agree with choice? Why or why not? What criteria do you think that CNN reporters and medical experts used to establish this list? Which, if any, of these stories have taken place within your lifetime? Of the 25 health and medical stories, which you do you think have the most relevance to your life? Why? Which do you think have the greatest impact on your parents' or grandparents' lives? Explain.

    2. Can you think of any other medical stories that should have been on this list? If so, which ones? Do you think that this list would be universally accepted? Why or why not? What medical developments on the list do you think had the greatest impact on the daily lives of Americans? Explain.

    3. What stories referred to in the program were considered controversial when they were first reported? Which of these topics remain controversial? How do you define "ethics"? What ethical debates have developed as a result of medical advances such as the use of embryonic stem cells, cloning, Assisted Reproductive Technology and gene therapy? Why do you think that these developments were controversial? Do you think that it is possible to resolve ethical debates that arise from medical advancements? Explain.

    4. What have been some of the key breakthroughs in life-saving medical procedures in the past quarter-century? Where do these procedures rank in the list of the top 25 medical stories? Why do you think that they received the rankings that they did? What do you think are some of the possible medical, social or economic implications for each of these procedures?

    5. What cosmetic procedures made the list of the top 25 medical procedures? Why do you think that these were selected among the top stories? How might you explain the mass appeal of these non-essential procedures? Do you think that the popularity of cosmetic surgery will remain a top story over the next 5-10 years? Explain.

    6. What were some of the most prominent health-related legal battles in the past 25 years? What were the outcomes of these lawsuits? What do you think are some of the implications of these stories for the future relationships between the companies that provide products and the people who voluntarily consume or purchase the products? How might consumers' increased access to medical information affect litigation cases?

    7. In what ways have worldwide diseases such as SARS and West Nile affected U.S. citizens? What challenges do health care providers face in trying to contain the spread of these diseases?

    8. Why do you think that "overweight America" is one of the top ten stories from the past 25 years? How has the medical profession responded to the problem of obesity in America? How many of the top 25 medical stories relate to obesity? Why do you think that this is the case?

    9. For what prescription drugs have you seen television commercials or print advertising? What impact do you think prescription drug advertising has had on Americans' health? How many of the top 25 medical stories have to do with consumer access to pharmaceuticals? What assumptions about Americans' health concerns can you make based on the presence of the drugs Prozac, Viagra, Ritalin and Phen Fen on the list of the top 25 medical stories?

    10. What are some of the ways in which society and medicine influence each other? What roles do social needs, attitudes, values, limitations (e.g., material, knowledge, access) and cultural backgrounds and beliefs play in the medical developments over the past quarter-century? Do you think that the list of the top 25 medical stories reflects American needs or values? Explain. In what ways do you think that these needs or values vary by region or by time period?

    11. Define "scientific progress." Which of the topics listed in this program do you think could be categorized as scientific progress? Which of the topics relate to life and death advancements in science or medicine? In your opinion, which of these advances led to an improvement in our quality of life? Do any of these stories lead you to believe that we are worse off than we were before that medical discovery or advance? Explain.

    12. What medical stories do you expect to see on the top 25 list five or ten years from now? Why? What ethical or moral debates do you expect to see clash with scientific progress as these stories develop?

    Suggested Activities

    1. CNN 25: Health and Medicine

    A. Write down the 25 medical stories addressed in the program on separate sheets of paper, and have students randomly select one topic. Direct each student to conduct research on his or her topic, noting the following:

  • What was the development?
  • When did it first become news?
  • Who was most affected by the development?
  • What impact, if any, did it have on the daily lives of Americans?
  • What medical, social, economic, religious, cultural or political impact did it have on American society?
  • What additional questions or issues were raised as a result of the medical development or news story?
  • B. Challenge students to create mind mapsexternal link ( or graphic organizersexternal link ( that both relate their findings and illustrate the potential short-term and long-term medical, social, economic, religious, cultural and/or political implications of the health-related news story. Encourage students to interview family or community members who remember reacting to the news of the medical or health stories. Have students gather personal stories about how news of the health-related issues were received at the time and how the medical developments may have changed peoples' lives. As students share their research on their medical topics and the impact that those topics had on American society, have the class develop a chart that categorizes the topics into life-saving procedures, diseases or cures, legal issues, medical research, elective medical procedures, pharmaceuticals or other.

    C. Next, have students imagine that they are aliens who have come to the United States to observe and evaluate the health of Americans. As students review the different categories on the chart, have them brainstorm a list of assumptions about American values and beliefs they could make based on the top health and medical stories. Discuss the possible implications of these assumptions for the future of medical developments in the United States. Ask: How have medical advances impacted our quality of life over the past quarter-century? In what ways can values and beliefs influence medical developments, and in what ways can medical developments affect our values and beliefs?

    2. Ethics and Medicine

    Discuss the term "ethics." Ask: In what ways can ethics sometimes conflict with science? What are some of the examples from the program in which scientific discoveries led to ethical debates? Then, share the following statements that were made in the program:

    "Scientists guess that within 10 years, your genome can be sequenced in its entirely and will be part of your medical records for about $1,000 or less." "Researchers expect to develop more effective diagnostic tools, determine individual risk for illnesses, understand how disease comes about and create more personalized medicines." "You'd certainly like to know if the drug's going to cure you or kill you and there's going to be clues in our genetic code of understanding those risks in advance."

    Discuss with students the potential implications of these predictions for our future, and pose the following questions:

  • What might be some of the potential benefits of having your entire genome sequenced in your medical records? Are there any potential drawbacks? Explain.
  • Would you want to know if you had a higher or lower risk for certain diseases based on your genetic code? Why or why not? What are the potential implications for this knowledge?
  • What might be some of the short-term or long-term results of the ability to create personalized medicines?
  • Have students work in pairs or small groups to create scenarios that illustrate ethical debates that could arise from future medical advancements. You may also refer students to Web sites to learn of current and ongoing ethical debates. After students have shared their ethical dilemmas with the class, have them develop a list of questions that they think will need to be addressed as science advances into the next 25 years.

    3. The Future of Medicine

    Discuss with students the health and medical-related issues affecting different demographic groups within our society including infants, children, teens, young adults, middle aged adults, seniors and the elderly. Have each student or group of students select one age group and one health-related issue for that age group on which to focus. Then, have them imagine what advancements might be available in the next 25 years that could address their health-related issues. Challenge students to write fictional stories about these hypothetical medical advancements that might appear on CNN in the next 25 years. As students share their stories, discuss the factors that can influence medical advancements such as funding, ethics, politics, scientific unknowns, priorities, etc. Have students examine the list of hypothetical medical advancements and predict which ones have the best chance of actually becoming news stories in the next quarter-century.


    HIV, AIDS, Mad Cow, Viagra, Pfizer, Tylenol, ADHD, LASIK, tobacco, assisted reproductive technology, in vitro, Dow Corning, silicone, FDA, Philip Morris, West Nile virus, anthrax, bioterrorism, cystic fibrosis, sickle-cell anemia, muscular dystrophy, gene therapy, liposuction, stigma, "low carb," phen-fen, BMI, CDC, obesity, antidepressant, Prozac, vaccine, cloning, Dolly, DNA, ethics, embryonic stem cells, President George W. Bush, human genome, cancer, remission

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