1. Identify the Kind of Design Skills You Need
Human-centered design is a systematic process that uses diverse skills to analyze problems in context and to pursue innovation while placing the real experiences of people at the forefront. When applying design, the first step is to understand the challenge that your organization is facing. Are you trying to improve a service, such as delivering health care to rural communities? Have you set out to improve a medical device, such as a pulse oximeter, so that it functions more reliably? Or are you attempting to streamline the paper forms that providers and beneficiaries use to track health information?

2. Pair Design With Other Disciplines to Amplify Its Value
Pairing design—with its questioning mindset, inclusive philosophy, iterative process, and varied skill set—with other disciplines unlocks the greatest value. Global health offers deep expertise, much of it rooted in research literature, and this accumulated knowledge should be a starting point for all health-focused design efforts. Integrating design with complementary disciplines—such as anthropology, behavioral economics, and developmental psychology—amplifies the impact of design, providing a new lens into how the field of global health has traditionally designed solutions to some of its most intractable problems. However, this requires openness to new lessons from all the participants, and they must be prepared to build on them.

3. Decide on Your Role in the Design Process
We increasingly encounter design consumers that want to do more with design beyond a single project. They can get started on bigger initiatives by answering some questions. Are you an outcomes-focused design consumer, who looks at insights and innovations only as an input toward delivering results? Are you trying to better understand how design is being used in your context? Are you looking to go all-in and learn design by doing it?

Good human-centered design practitioners don’t claim that design is a magic bullet. But they believe design can play an important role in helping non-designers in health understand the “why” behind people’s behavior.

As the practice evolves, the human-centered design approach can help the health community shift from prescribing solutions according to a perception of people’s needs, to identifying solutions that actually meet their needs. The more these ideas address people where they are, not where we think they are, the better chance we will have in dealing with complex global challenges in health and health care.

Read the full article about human-centered design in global public health by Tracy Johnson, Jaspal S. Sandhu, and Nikki Tyler at Stanford Social Innovation Review.