The Next Step for Human-Centered Design in Global Public Health

Tracy Johnson, Jaspal S. Sandhu & Nikki Tyler at SSIR : “How do we select the right design partner?” “Where can I find evidence that design really works?” “Can design have any impact beyond products?” These are real questions that we’ve been asked by our public health colleagues who have been exposed to human-centered design. This deeper curiosity indicates a shift in the conversation around human-centered design, compared with common perceptions as recently as five years ago.

The past decade has seen a rapid increase in organizations that use human-centered design for innovation and improvement in health care. However, there have been challenges in determining how to best integrate design into current ways of working. Unfortunately, these challenges have been met with an all-or-nothing response.

In reality, anyone thinking of applying design concepts must first decide how deeply they want design to be integrated into a project. The DesignforHealth community—launched by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Center for Innovation and Impact at USAID—defines three types of design integration: spark, ingredient, or end-to-end.

As a spark, design can be the catalyst for teams to work creatively and unlock innovation.

Design can be an ingredient that helps improve an existing product. Using design end-to-end in the development process can address a complex concept such as social vulnerability.

As the field of design in health matures, the next phase will require support for “design consumers.” These are non-designers who take part in a design approach, whether as an inspiring spark, a key ingredient in an established process, or an end-to-end approach.

Here are three important considerations that will help design consumers make the critical decisions that are needed before embarking on their next design journey….(More)”.