Jacaranda Health Staff Connect Nutrition and Maternal Health Through Human-centered Design Course

Posted on

By: Grace Lesser, Knowledge Manager, Jacaranda Health

This post originally appeared on the cross-posted from the Jacaranda Health blog. To learn more about Jacaranda’s work, visit their website

Human-centered design (HCD) has been part of Jacaranda’s approach to providing high-quality, affordable maternal health care since our inception. In the past year and a half we have consistently used design sessions to understand healthseeking behaviors and develop our model. During one of our HCD sessions, two participants role-played the typical interaction between a clinician and a patient, demonstrating a “good” and a “bad” nurse. The group then put themselves in the shoes of a patient to envision how they would like to be treated. During another exercise, Jacaranda staff generated strategies for increasing male involvement in maternity care. They talked to men on the street, in barbershops, and in bars to develop a deeper understanding of male views on maternity and how we can provide more inclusive services.We have always been driven by the pursuit of understanding those we serve, and hold the core belief that our clients hold the knowledge about how to best design an effective service delivery system.

Most recently, Jacaranda’s engagement in HCD went even deeper. Two groups of clinical staff enrolled in a self-led, +Acumen/Ideo.org supported HCD for Social Innovation course, and for the past five weeks met on a weekly basis to look at ‘barriers to good nutrition’. The groups had readings and discussion sessions each week, where they used the principles of human centered design to consider the topic from the perspective of our clients. The discussion sessions had a rotating leader, and outside of class participants talked to players at every stage of the healthy eating chain: Farmers, pregnant women at our maternity hospital, community members, those responsible for food procurement and financial accounting. They distilled the information they had collected in brainstorm sessions with post-it notes, and came up with ideas and solutions – no matter how crazy or farfetched – to address the problem of poor nutrition. The ultimate goal was to create a tangible prototype that could be tested with Jacaranda maternity clients and ultimately improve healthy eating and nutrition.

By the end of the HCD course, an interesting phenomenon occurred. Although both groups were looking at the same exact same target population – Jacaranda clients – each created their prototype based on a different premise. The first group determined that clients may not have basic knowledge about healthy eating do’s and don’ts, so began with education. They created a set of patient education materials, one to be published in a local newspaper and the other to be posted in the Jacaranda waiting room. In contrast, the second group assumed that pregnant women know what to eat; they just often do not have  adequate resources. They created a burlap sack kitchen garden growing four sets of iron-rich greens that pregnant women can re-create in their home.

This coming week, the groups will present their prototype and get feedback from the target communities. Next, they will reunite in the final session of the course to share their learnings with the rest of the team. In our own backyard, the HCD course has already affected the Jacaranda kitchen, as our cooks (also participants in the course!) have taken a deeper look at the nutrition we provide to clients. Clinical staff were so invigorated by their engagement in the course that they’ve expressed interest in participating in another online HCD course, with a new topic, in the next few months.