Talking about Stratified Medicine

A 'paper chain people' activity to stimulate conversation around stratified medicine

This activity was designed for a family science festival audience. 

Children create a chain of 3 people. 
In the UK, 1 in 3 people will experience symptoms of anxiety or depression in their lifetime. 

Paper chain people    Paper chain template on top of card

They then colour and decorate their people as they wish. 
We use this opportunity to talk to the adults / engage them in another activity. 

Child decorating paper chain people    Child holds up her decorated paper chain people


When the decorating is complete, we ask the child to turn their chain over and add a pattern of stickers to the back of each person. 

Stickers on back and corresponding coloured pill boxes alongside


We explain that these stickers represent the 'pattern' of DNA inside each person (explaining DNA as a 'recipe' or 'set of instructions'). 

We tell them that in the future, doctors may use DNA tests, to help them decide which medicines to prescribe.

  • For the 'person' with mostly blue stickers, blue medicine would be best. 
  • For the 'person' with a majority of yellow stickers, yellow medicine would be best. 
  • The person on the right has a mixed pattern, so the genetic test may not be informative. 

If age-appropriate, we provide a simplified explanation of depression and anti-depressants. 

For older children/adults, we use these flow charts to help us explain current and potential future prescribing processes. 

At the moment, doctors will generally prescribe antidepressant A first. If that doesn't work or has too many side effects, they will try B and then C. This process could take months or even years. 

In the future, we may be able to give people a DNA test and prescribe them the most appropriate medicine for them, first time around.  


Flow chart showing current prescribing process of trial and error



Potential future prescribing process - genetic test and prescribe correct antidepressant