Activity Plan: The Relationship Between Culture and Disease

Grades 10 to 12 | Science

Big question

How are disease, culture and genetics related?

Activity description

In this activity, students will have the opportunity to research statistics and explore the connections between genetics, culture and disease. In addition, students will use critical and creative thinking skills to propose some solutions to the health epidemics in South Asian populations in British Columbia.

Grades and curricular area(s)

  • Grade 10 to Grade 12
  • Science

Big ideas

  • Science 10: DNA is the basis for diversity in living things.
  • Science for Citizens 11: Scientific knowledge and processes inform our decisions and impact our daily lives. Scientific understanding allows humans to respond and adapt to changes locally and globally.
  • Anatomy and Physiology 12: Homeostasis is maintained through physiological processes. Organ systems have complex interrelationships to maintain homeostasis.

Curricular competencies

Science 10, Science for Citizens 11, and Anatomy and Physiology 12
  • Demonstrate a sustained intellectual curiosity about a scientific topic or problem of personal, local, or global interest
  • Use knowledge of scientific concepts to draw conclusions that are consistent with evidence
  • Analyze cause-and-effect relationships
  • Demonstrate an awareness of assumptions, question information given, and identify bias in their own work and in primary and secondary sources
  • Consider social, ethical, and environmental implications of the findings from their own and others’ investigations
  • Critically analyze the validity of information in primary and secondary sources and evaluate the approaches used to solve problems

Step 1

Ask students: What is epidemiology? Provide an opportunity for students to share their knowledge and/or guesses, then provide the following definition: Epidemiology is a branch of medicine that deals with the incidence, distribution, and possible control of diseases and other factors relating to health.

Step 2

Have students generate questions about epidemiology. They may be broad questions about the science itself or more specific questions about its role in managing different diseases.

Students should generate at least three questions, but may generate more. You can share a few sample questions, which they may choose to include in addition to their three—for example:

  • How do epidemiologists conduct their research?
  • Why is epidemiology important?

Question stems to help students include:

  • What I wonder is…
  • How can epidemiology…
  • What influence does/has epidemiology have/had…
  • How do epidemiologists…

Step 3

Create groups of three (or allow students to choose groups), and then have each group choose three questions they will research.

Step 4

Have students complete their research using books, the internet or other provided resources. You may choose to pre-print resource articles and check out library books.

Step 5

Have each group share their answer to one question. Once a question is answered, another group cannot use the same question.

Step 1

Explain to students that while epidemiology is used in different populations around the world, they’ll be learning about South Asian populations for this activity. Have students read the South Asian Canadians backgrounder.

Step 2

Have students form into groups (the same groups as before, or new groups) and begin to research/learn about epidemiological data for South Asians in B.C. and Canada. Using the Student Activity Sheet: Disease in South Asian Populations, have students research the following questions:

  • Are there epidemiological studies on South Asian populations in B.C. or Canada? If yes, what do they tell us?
  • What diseases are common? Which of these are epidemiologically linked?

Students should be mindful of their sources, relying only on those that are scientifically sound. All sources should be cited, with citations in APA format.

Step 3

As a class, review answers from the previous step as a class. Guide the discussion with questions such as:

  • What did they find out about epidemiological studies?
  • Did any groups find conflicting information?
  • What are they left wondering?

Step 4

If it hasn’t come up in previous discussions, explain that diabetes is a prevalent disease in South Asian populations.

Ask students what they know about diabetes. Some students may have diabetes or know someone who does.

Watch the video What Is Diabetes? (2:22).

Step 5

For their final project, students will research diabetes in South Asian populations and then propose a plan to help reduce the occurrence of the disease.

Handout: Reducing Diabetes in South Asian Populations handout will guide students. Their final “deliverable” can be a video, paper, poster, and so on.


Have students present their final projects to the class.


Assess the research skills and collaborative skills used throughout the activity. The student sheets can be assessed for a formal assessment. (See the Curricular Competencies Rubric.)

During final project presentations, have each group provide feedback to at least one other group. Feedback should include what they thought was well done, what they found interesting, and what could be improved.

In the early research stages of the final project, co-create a rubric with the class to assess their final project.

Explore common diseases in other cultural groups or geographic areas:

  • What diseases are common?
  • What are the lifestyle features that may be a leading cause for the disease?
  • What changes can you suggest to help mitigate the occurrence of the disease in this population?
  • What is the best method for the implementation of your plan with this cultural group?

Return to Activity Plans