“In a year of many dispiriting headlines, Fixes still found the better angels of human nature at work.” T. Rosenberg, The New York Times
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key
“O.K. so Time magazine has Greta Thunberg. But many other individuals also changed the world for the better in 2019. Here, for a second year, is a list of five whose contributions Fixes wrote about.
Scott O’Neill fights tropical disease.
There’s a new weapon in the fight against mosquito-borne diseases.
Before 1970, only nine countries had experienced severe epidemics of dengue fever. Now, the disease is endemic in 100 countries, infects 400 million people a year and is intensifying rapidly.
Like Zika and chikungunya, dengue is spread by the bite of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, and no workable vaccine or cure has been found.
The normal public health response to mosquitoes is attack: spray pesticide, eliminate breeding grounds and help people ward off their bites. But these strategies have failed to control dengue. The world is desperate for something new. Scott O’Neill leads a team that is doing just the opposite — adding millions of mosquitoes to areas affected by disease. Professor O’Neill directs the World Mosquito Program, which is based at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.
The mosquitoes the program releases are infected with Wolbachia bacteria, which block their ability to transmit disease. Wolbachia occurs naturally in most insect species and is harmless to vertebrates and humans. When enough Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes are released, they take over the whole population…In Yogyakarta, Indonesia, Wolbachia zones had 76 percent fewer cases of dengue than other areas. Wolbachia has also led to reductions in disease in Brazil and Vietnam.
Kimberly McGrath heals trafficked children.
What happens to a child who is exploited commercially for sex? Kimberly McGrath is changing the answer to that question. Historically, trafficked children have been arrested for solicitation and sent to juvenile court…’The core understanding was that these were defiant, rebellious youth who would rebel in a family,’ Dr. McGrath said. In 2013, Florida officials asked Dr. McGrath, who coordinates foster care services at the Citrus Health Network in South Florida, to come up with a different response.
She started from the premise that these children were not defiant criminals. A vast majority had been abused, which made them more susceptible to the manipulations of traffickers. And they had never gotten help to recover from that abuse.
Dr. McGrath and her colleagues looked at what had worked for other traumatized children and adapted it to trafficked children. They educated not just therapists and social workers, but also foster parents…’When foster parents are equipped and prepared to deal with their special needs, children thrive in family-based environments,’ she said. “They really are just traumatized kids.’
Dr. Dixon Chibanda transforms global mental health care.
Depression occurs everywhere. By some measures, it’s the world’s most debilitating disease. But treatment is not everywhere. Even in New York City, less than 40 percent of people with depression get treatment. In poor countries, it’s closer to zero percent.
So what can be done in places with no public mental health care and only a tiny number of mental health professionals? As with medical care, the answer is training nonprofessionals. Every health clinic in Harare, Zimbabwe, has a ‘friendship bench‘ in its yard. It’s an ordinary wooden bench. Seated on it is a community health worker with a few weeks’ training in problem-solving therapy. Patients go to the bench, talk to the health worker about their problems and come up with possible solutions. They go home and try them, and return.
The friendship bench was invented in 2006 by a psychiatrist, Dixon Chibanda, after a patient committed suicide. He had asked her to come see him at Harare Central Hospital, but she lived in another city and didn’t have bus fare.
Dr. Chibanda decided to bring treatment for depression to Harare’s health clinics. At first he wanted to train nurses and put offices inside the buildings, but the nurses had not enough time and clinics had not enough space. But what seemed like a setback is what has allowed the program to spread.
Now, there’s a bench in the yard of every government-run health clinic in Harare, and the practice is spreading throughout Zimbabwe and to other African countries. In a different form, the strategy has also reached New York. Research shows that friendship benches are effective at treating depression.
Dr. Rebekah Gee makes medicines affordable.
Louisiana is doing two things no other state is doing about hepatitis C, which kills more Americans than all other infectious diseases combined. One is that the state is suddenly treating more people.
Hep C is curable — but the drugs are astronomically expensive. Even the cheapest generic version in the United States costs $24,000 for a course of treatment. (In India, the same drug is $550.) Because of the price, state Medicaid programs ration the drugs. In 2018, Louisiana treated 1,200 people… Louisiana could do that because of the second innovation: The drugs were made a lot less expensive. In July, the state began buying hep C medicines in a new way. Just as you pay Netflix a flat fee for all you want to watch, Louisiana now pays Asegua Therapeutics $58 million per year for all the hep C medicine the state can use.
Dr. Rebekah Gee, Louisiana’s secretary of health, adopted the scheme from Australia, where it has allowed Australia to treat seven times as many patients for the same money. Louisiana is the first state in America to do the same. The State of Washington is about to start as well. Other states are likely to follow.
Phil Keisling deepens democracy.
There’s a lot of attention, and rightly so, paid to Republican efforts to suppress voting. But there’s also a movement in both parties to expand voting. It abandons the traditional polling booth in favor of voting at home.
It’s one of the most effective ways to increase turnout — possibly the best way.
Increasingly, other states are following the path first set by Oregon, which mails every voter a ballot. Voters fill it out at their leisure and mail it in or drop it off at a ballot center.
In next year’s elections, all voters in Oregon, Colorado, Washington, Utah and Hawaii will vote at home. California will soon follow. Large parts of North Dakota and Nebraska vote at home. In last year’s midterms, 69 percent of all votes in the West were cast by voters who received ballots in the mail.
Phil Keisling was Oregon’s secretary of state, in charge of elections, when Oregon began home voting in 1998. Now he leads the Vote at Home Institute.
The institute asserts that it saves taxpayers money (some election officials disagree). It argues that because the approach uses paper ballots, it’s secure against hacking… Home voting probably doesn’t affect turnout in big elections. But it does in local elections, races at the end of the ballot, ballot propositions and judicial elections.
NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.
Level: Intermediate – Advanced
Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 2 hours.
Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.
Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and improving oral skills. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.
Predictions: Using a Pre-reading Organizer
Directions: Have students to examine the title of the post and of the actual article they are about to read. Then, have them examine the photos. Ask students to write a paragraph describing what they think this article will discuss. Students can use a Pre-reading organizer for assistance.
II. While Reading Activities
Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.
- Before 1970, only nine countries had experienced severe epidemics of dengue fever.
- The normal public health response to mosquitoes is attack: spray pesticide.
- What happens to a child who is exploited?
- Historically, trafficked children have been arrested for solicitation.
- Depression occurs everywhere.
- So what can be done in places with no public mental health care?
- Louisiana is doing two things no other state is doing about hepatitis C.
- Hepatitis C kills more Americans than all other infectious diseases combined.
- There’s a lot of attention, and rightly so, paid to Republican efforts to suppress voting.
- Increasingly, other states are following the path first set by Oregon, which mails every voter a ballot.
Source: New Oxford American Dictionary
Grammar Focus: Structure and Usage
Directions: The following groups of sentences are from the article. One of the sentences in each group contains a grammatical error. Students are to identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.
Many other individual also changed the world for the better in 2019.
The normal public health response to mosquitoes is attack.
The mosquitoes the program releases are infected with Wolbachia bacteria.
The friendship bench was invented in 2006.
There’s a bench in the yard of every government-run health clinic in Harare.
Louisiana is treating more people for hepatitis C.
Because of an price, state Medicaid programs ration their drugs.
In next year’s elections, all voters in Oregon, Colorado, Washington, Utah and Hawaii will vote at home.
Turnout for these elections can be in the single digits.
Identify The Speakers
Directions: Place students in groups. Hand out the following quotes from speakers in the article. Members are to identify the speakers from the article. The first group to correctlyidentify all of the speakers wins.
- “People who understand dengue and live in transmission areas are horrified and scared.”
- “Now we know they really are just extremely traumatized youth.”
- “I started to realize that psychiatry in an institution is not the way to go. We have to take it to the community.”
- “Why couldn’t we change health care in this country?”
- “For millions of citizens, especially those with uncertain work schedules, family obligations and other daily demands, the traditional polling place has now become the most powerful voter suppression tool of all.”
III. Post Reading Activities
Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing
Directions: Place students in groups and have them discuss the following questions/statements. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics mentioned.
- Which of the profiles do you find most inspiring or heartwarming? Why?
- Do they make you more hopeful and optimistic about the world?
- Do they inspire you to make a difference? How?
- Have you observed other ordinary heroes of 2019 in the news?In your community? Describe them.
- What qualities make it possible for individuals to affect change?
- Do you think you made a positive difference in the lives of others in 2019? Explain how.
- Has anyone made a difference in your life this past year?
Directions: Allow students 5 minutes to write down three new ideas they’ve learned about the topic from the reading, two things they did not understand in the reading, and one thing they would like to know that the article did not mention. Review the responses as a class.