Developing a Public Health Service Message
Author: Rachel Hughes and Sarah Kenyon

Time: 4 days
Preparation Time: 1 hour to collect materials
Materials: health posters
poster paper
markers, colored pencils
Get the message out! Weeks 8&9 handout

Over the past seven to eight weeks students have been studying various aspects of diseases and epidemics in social studies, language arts, mathematics and biology. Throughout the series of lessons students have been working on choosing a public health related issue and in the past week have begun to work in their group on gathering information. By this time they have had an introduction to the basics of a variety of diseases and epidemics and will now use that introductory information to create a Public Health poster explaining an aspect of science behind their public health issue. They will need to refer to the “Get the message out!” weeks 8&9 worksheet for what to include in the poster.

Students will be able:

1. Communicate the biological basis for an aspect of a public health issue in a visual manner.

National Science Education Standard:
Content Standard F – Science in Personal and Social Perspectives

The severity of a disease’s symptoms is dependent on many factors, such as human resistance and the virulence of the disease-producing organism. Many diseases can be prevented, controlled, or cured. Some diseases, such as cancer, result from specific body dysfunctions and cannot be transmitted.

Personal choice concerning fitness and health involves multiple factors. Personal goals, peer and social pressures, ethnic and religious beliefs, plus an understanding of biological consequences can all influence decisions about health practices.

Related and Resource Websites




In both language arts and social studies lessons students will review a variety of public service announcements and create public health service messages in other forms. Be sure to collaborate with the social studies and language arts teachers to make sure that overlapping use of public service messages is minimal among the subjects. (There are more than two involved, right?)

Throughout the semester students have considered a number of local public health issues. Having been introduced to disease, immunity and issues of vaccinations, antibiotics and emerging diseases, they will develop a poster that communicates an important aspect of the science behind the prevention or treatment of a disease or another public health issue.

1. Begin the class by sharing some public health service message posters. These can be found at the school nurse’s office, local community health center, etc. You may also wish to connect with the public health visitor who you had visit earlier in the semester to identify some posters that focus on the science aspect of local public health issues. There are also a number of posters available online through the Center for Disease Control, http://www.cdc.gov and through the National Institutes of Health, http://www.nlm.nih.gov/exhibition/visualculture/vchome.html; use the search function to find posters.

2. Ask students, “Why might it be important to communicate the science behind an issue?” Is it important to have a scientific understanding of an issue? Do students think that having scientific literacy is conducive to being health literate and also being an informed patient?

3. Remind students of their challenge: They are to create a poster that is appealing and understandable to their chosen audience in addition to explaining the science behind the issue.

4. Students have already identified the audience; you may also wish to put them in charge of identifying venues and requesting to have their posters displayed there. Next week students will share their posters and other aspects of outreach to their peers, but it is actual outreach into the community that is desired.

5. As a class, draw upon the posters that they have seen and use examples to establish what would be important features to include in the poster, including: who is the audience, the amount and level of content, graphic design, size etc. You may wish to use their feedback to develop a class rubric.

While students may not be working with the same students as in their social studies and language arts classes, they will be working on the similar topics. This allows them to develop a larger collective understanding.

6. During the previous week students have been working in groups on their topics. Now they will begin working on putting their ideas and research on paper. Students should identify the one message they want to get across. How are they visually going to address that message? They should sketch this message out. How would they get this message across in words? Can they keep the written version short and catchy?

7. Once students have a rough draft, set up a peer editing session. Students should peer edit for both spelling and grammar and also for content. If you have chosen to develop a more explicit class rubric for the posters, peers should use this to edit. If you are able to connect with the public health official, and they have the opportunity, including them in this editing process can give students valuable feedback.

8. Allow students to develop their final poster product.

9. Before any of the materials are shared, check that the content is correct.

Students may wish to work on the poster at home.

Embedded Assessment

The poster allows for assessment of students’ ability to explain the scientific principles behind a public health issue in a visual manner.



PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

1996-2007, The University of Arizona
Last update: November 10, 2009
  Page Content: Rachel Hughes
Web Master: Travis Biazo