Sensitization as the First Step: The Horatio Alger Exercise

  • Varun U. Shetty
  • S. Jeffrey Mostade


A deep awareness of privilege and oppression is necessary for one to be empathetic toward those less privileged. This chapter describes an interactive exercise that seeks to sensitize participants to health disparities that are a result of unearned privilege. Horatio Alger Jr. was a nineteenth-century American author whose stories had a common theme of a poor, hardworking person rescued from their condition usually with an extraordinary act of bravery, determination, or honesty. The primary objective of the exercise is to illustrate unearned privilege, oppression, and disparity within an audience where it is not always apparent. Facilitators read a series of statements, while participants take steps forward or backward in order to simulate their interpersonal differences. Our experience is that this exercise promotes both cognitive and emotional learning about health disparities and the social determinants of health.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Varun U. Shetty
    • 1
  • S. Jeffrey Mostade
    • 2
  1. 1.Internal Medicine-PediatricsThe MetroHealth SystemClevelandUSA
  2. 2.Shaker HeightsUSA

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