Lesson Plans

Reading the News Through a Public Health Lens

Hospital staff in Mumbai pay tribute to those involved in the fight against the spread of the coronavirus. Image by Manoej Paateel/Shutterstock. India, 2020.

Introducing the Lesson:

Every story you encounter in the news can be read as a story about health if you apply a public health lens. While you read, think about questions like: How do the events, decisions, or circumstances described in this story impact people’s health and wellbeing?

By answering this question, you are identifying social determinants of health, which the CDC defines as “conditions in the places where people live, learn, work, and play that affect a wide range of health and quality-of life-risks and outcomes.” The graphic below offers an incomplete list of social determinants of health, visualized here as the roots of a tree. If these roots are strong, health outcomes are more likely to be positive. If the roots are weak, health outcomes will suffer.

Courtesy of the Equity and Social Justice Initiative, King County, Washington

Courtesy of the Equity and Social Justice Initiative, King County, Washington


Select three stories from the list below. Use this graphic organizer to record what social determinants of health you can identify in each story while you read. Finally, use your public health lens to evaluate how each story could be considered a story about health.

  1. Milwaukee Evictions Spurred by COVID-19, Longstanding Racism, and Poverty
    • Topics: Evictions, housing, race relations, pandemics, U.S.
  2. Water Credit Enabling Low-Income Communities to Access Water, Sanitation Solutions
    • Topics: Physical systems, sewage, pandemics, Kenya
  3. Police Violence Against Dominicans in Puerto Rico Suggests Systemic Problem
    • Topics: Policing, race relations, migration, U.S.
Educator Notes: 

Common Core Standards:


Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

Lesson Builder Survey