Global Health Ideas

Finding global health solutions through innovation and technology

Archive for the ‘Design’ Category

Art for Global Health

art_condom-dressesI recently discovered the UCLA Art|Global Health Center, the mission of which is to “unleash the transformative power of the arts to advance global health“. The arts have the ability to capture issues and tell a story in a way that can make a profound impact on our (social) consciousness and is not something we talk about enough as a tool. One of the more famous examples of this is the AIDS quilt which was conceived of in 1985 by an AIDS activist in memory of Harvey Milk. That quilt has had over 14 million visitors and is the largest community arts project in the world.

The UCLA center has some ongoing projects and last year opened “Make Art | Stop AIDS” that featured traditional art as well as things like condom dresses. Make Art/Stop AIDS “is organized around a series of seven interconnected and at times overlapping concerns expressed in the form of open-ended questions, some of which include direct art historical references to the epidemic: What is AIDS?; Who lives, who dies?; Condoms: what’s the issue?; Is it safe to touch?; When is the last time you cried?; What good does a red ribbon do?; Are you angry enough to do something about AIDS?; and, finally, Art is not enough. Now it’s in your hands.”

Creative art projects have the ability to move the human mind unlike the constant barrage of issues, numbers and headlines that desensitize us over time. If you have seen or heard of any interesting arts based global health projects let us know.

More Sources
Adriana Bertinin’s condom dresses

Addressing HIV/AIDS-Related Grief and Healing Through Art

History of the AIDS Memorial Quilt

Condom fashion show, China

Written by Aman

April 13, 2009 at 9:49 pm

Milwaukee: hub of water technology in global health?

It’s been more than two years since we reported on Seattle as the new Geneva, that is, as the new epicenter of global health activity. An article in this morning Journal-Sentinel (Water-engineering firms see potential, challenge in developing countries) – which includes an exclusive interview with the Acumen Fund’s chief executive Jacqueline Novogratz – suggests that Milwaukee is angling to do the same for water technology:

It’s an issue that almost certainly will preoccupy business leaders in metro Milwaukee in their strategy to brand the region as an international hub of water technology. The metro area is home to scores of water-engineering companies. Gov. Jim Doyle and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee this month announced plans to invest millions of dollars for UWM to become a center of freshwater research.

An 2008 article from the same newspaper (Area’s tide could turn on water technology) provides more evidence:

[F]our of the world’s 11 largest water-technology companies have a significant presence in southeastern Wisconsin, according to an analysis of data from a new Goldman Sachs report.

Wall Street has tracked automakers, railroads and retailers almost since there were stocks and bonds. But water remains a novelty. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. didn’t begin to research water treatment as a stand-alone industrial sector until late 2005.

While several large MNCs have shown an active interest in clean water in developing countries (e.g., Procter and Gamble, Vestergaard Frandsen, Dow) open questions remain as to what role large MNCs will play in providing access to safe water for the one billion people who don’t have it.

(Thanks to Dr. Jessica Granderson for sending the link)

Innovation as a Learning Process

Cross-posted from Design Research for Global Health.

The California Management Review recently announced the winners of the 2009 Accenture Award: Sara Beckman of Berkeley’s Haas School of Business and Michael Barry, founder of design consultancy Point Forward and Adjunct Professor at Stanford, for their article, Innovation as a Learning Process: Embedding Design Thinking (Fall 2007, Vol. 50, No. 1).

From the award website (which is still on the 2008 winner as I write this): “The Accenture Award is given each year to the author (or authors) of the article published in the preceding volume of the California Management Review that has made the most important contribution to improving the practice of management.”

The paper makes a compelling argument that innovation can be achieved by management and provides a model for cross-functional, cross-disciplinary teams to engage in this process. The relevance to global health as I’ve discussed before (really what this entire blog is about) is that the process can help us improve health systems through innovation.

The challenge in coming years will be how to get organizations and institutions working in global health – foundations, Ministries of Health, NGOs, development programs, health research centers, etc. – treating innovation as a way of working, not simply an input or an output.

The abstract/lead-in isn’t openly available online so I’m copying it here:

Companies throughout the world are seeking competitive advantage by leading through innovation, some — such as Apple, Toyota, Google, and Starbucks — with great success. Many countries – such as Singapore, China, Korea, and India — are investing in education systems that emphasize leading through innovation, some by investing specifically in design schools or programs, and others by embedding innovative thinking throughout the curriculum. Business, engineering, and design schools around the U.S. are expanding their efforts to teach students how to innovate, often through multi-disciplinary classes that give students a full experience of the innovation process. However, what does leading through innovation really mean? What does it mean to be a leader, and what does it mean to engage in innovation?

There is a vast literature on leadership covering a wide range of topics: the characteristics of a good leader, how leadership is best displayed in an organization, leadership and vision, authority, leadership styles, and so on. There is also a growing body of literature on innovation and its various facets, much of it focused by application of the innovation process. Hundreds of publications describe the process of innovation for products — both hardware and software — and a growing number of publications focus on innovation in services. Further, there are dozens of books on innovation in building and workplace design.

Here we examine a generic innovation process, grounded in models of how people learn, that can be applied across these sectors. It can be applied to the design and development of both hardware and software products, to the design of business models and services, to the design of organizations and how they work, and to the design of the buildings and spaces in which work takes place, or within which companies interact with their customers. The model has evolved through two streams of thought: design and learning.

This video, which seems to be unaffiliated to the authors, summarizes the article [correction – I just found out that Shealy did work with the authors on this video – Tues-24-Mar-2009 12:18PM PDT]:


 
[Innovation as a Learning Process from Roger H. Shealy on Vimeo]

Here are slides from Beckman and Barry’s presentation at the Inside Innovation 2007 Conference and the Google scholar view of who is citing this work.

[(Dis)claimer: Sara Beckman served on my dissertation committee and Michael Barry provided guidance on my applied research in Mongolia]

Why bad presentations happen to good causes

Cross-posted from Design Research for Global Health.

Giving talks is not one of my strong suits, but it seems to be a part of the job requirement.  Earlier this month, I had the opportunity (even though I’m no good, I do consider it an opportunity), to give a couple talks, one to the Interdisciplinary MPH Program at Berkeley and one to a group of undergraduate design students, also at Berkeley.  Despite the difference in focus, age, and experience of the two groups, the topic was roughly the same: How do we effectively use design thinking as an approach in public health?

The first session was so-so, and I suspect that the few people who were excited about it were probably excited in spite of the talk.  It started well, but about halfway through, something began to feel very wrong and that feeling didn’t go away until some time later that evening.  Afterwards, I received direct feedback from the instructor and from the students in the form of an evaluation.  I recommend this if it is ever presented as an option.  Like any “accident”, this one was a “confluence of factors”: lack of clarity and specificity, allowing the discussion to get sidetracked, poor posture, and a tone that conveyed a lack of excitement for the topic.

It’s one thing to get feedback like this, another to act on it.

top10causesofdeath-blogThe second session went much better, gauging by the student feedback, the comments from the instructor, and my own observations.  This in spite of a larger group (60 vs. 20) that would be harder to motivate (undergraduates with midterms vs. professionals working on applied problems in public health).  I chalk it all up to preparation and planning.  Certainly there are people that are capable of doing a great job without preparation – I just don’t think I’m one of those people.

Most of that preparation by the way was not on slides.  I did use slides, but only had five for an hour session and that still proved to be too many.  Most of the time that I spent on slides, I spent developing a single custom visual to convey precisely the information that was relevant to the students during this session (see image).  The rest of the preparation was spent understanding the audience needs by speaking to those running the class; developing a detailed plan for the hour, focusing on how to make the session a highly interactive learning experience; designing quality handouts to support the interactive exercise; and doing my necessary homework.  For this last one, I spent 20 minutes on the phone with a surgeon friend, since the session was built around a case study discussing surgical complications and design.

Three resources I found really useful:

  1. Why Bad Presentations Happen to Good Causes, Andy Goodman, 2006. This commissioned report was developed to help NGOs with their presentations, but I think there is value here for anyone whose work involves presentations. It is evidence-based and provides practical guidance on session design, delivery, slides (PowerPoint), and logistics.  Most importantly, it is available as a free download. I was fortunate enough to pick up a used copy of the print edition for US$9 at my local bookstore, which was worth the investment for me because of the design of the physical book.  It’s out-of-print now and it looks like the online used copies are quite expensive – at least 3x what I paid – so I recommend the PDF.
  2. Envisioning Information, Edward Tufte, 1990. I read this when I was writing my dissertation. Folks in design all know about Tufte, but I still recommend a periodic refresher.  This is the sort of book that will stay on my shelf.  Also potentially useful is The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. For those working in global health, don’t forget how important the display of information can be: (a) Bill Gates and the NYTimes, (b) Hans Rosling at TED.
  3. Software for creating quality graphics.  The drawing tools built into typical office applications, though they have improved in recent years, are still limited in their capability and flexibility, especially if you’re looking at #2 above.  In the past 10 days, three people in my socio-professional network have solicited advice on such standalone tools, OmniGraffle (for Mac) and Visio (Windows): a graphic designer in New York, an energy research scientist in California, and a healthcare researcher in DC.  Both are great options.  I use OmniGraffle these days, though I used to use Visio a few years back.  If cost is an issue, there are open-source alternatives available, though I’m not at all familiar with them (e.g., the Pencil plug-in for Firefox).

Written by Jaspal

March 26, 2009 at 10:42 am

“Innovating for the Health of All” open for registration (Havana, November 2009)

Forum 2009
Innovating for the health of all
Innovando para la salud de todos
Havana, Cuba, 16-20 November 2009

Registration here

The letter:

Dear colleague,

Forum 2009: Innovating for the Health of All is this year’s milestone event in research and innovation for health. Organized by the Global Forum for Health Research, it will take place from 16-20 November in Havana, Cuba, at the invitation of the Ministry of Public Health.

What exactly is “innovation”?* How can decision-makers and practitioners work together to foster innovation for health and health equity? What can we learn from innovation policies and initiatives around the world? These questions will be answered in Forum 2009‘s interwoven discussions of social innovation and technological innovation.

This event will bring together some 800 leaders and experts from around the world to share ideas and forge new partnerships. It will include a unique mix of stakeholders from health and science ministries, research agencies and institutions, development agencies, foundations, nongovernmental organizations, civil society, the private sector and media.

As you expand your networks, you will also be able to learn from discussions on social entrepreneurship for health, public-private product development for neglected diseases, eHealth, knowledge-translation platforms, national health innovation systems, donor-country harmonization and coherence, and innovative financing strategies.

With the theme “innovation,” we are challenged to be innovative in the programme itself including new session formats that are more interactive, new ways to network and share information, and new opportunities for inclusion.

So please join us. Registration is now open on http://www.globalforumhealth.org. We very much look forward to seeing you in Cuba.

Yours sincerely,
Professor Stephen Matlin
Executive Director
Global Forum for Health Research

PhotoVoice(+cultural probes) for clean water and sanitation in Mumbai

Last Thursday, I had the opportunity to view a PhotoVoice exhibition at the University of California, Berkeley organized by Haath Mein Sehat (HMS), a group working to improve access to clean water and sanitation in six slums of Hubballi and Mumbai, including Dharavi.

It was exciting to see a group effectively blend the advocacy elements of PhotoVoice with the design elements of cultural probes. The difference between the two approaches is less in the methods and more in the use of the outputs. In this case, they organized the exhibition to raise awareness and break down stereotypes of slum life, and they are using the photographic corpus to guide the design of both programs and technologies related to their core mission.

What I was most interested in from a design perspective were the instructions given to community photographers and how this tied back to the mission of HMS. The results below followed from the simple prompt: “Represent your daily experience with water”.

Written by Jaspal

March 2, 2009 at 1:09 pm

Popsci and Tech for Humanity Awards

Two recent awards were given out in the area of technology for humanity. The first was a generic “best of 2008” in technology PopSci award. It was great to see PopSci pick a technology for developing countries as one of their top products, the CellScope, which we covered in a post on mobile phones for global health (hat tip BOPreneur). Additionally there was the annual Tech Museum awards which you can read more about over at CNET (the Star Syringe was their health awardee).

cellscope

Video:
celscope1

Written by Aman

November 19, 2008 at 9:14 pm

2000 Nominations needed: Life-Changing Tech for the World’s Poor

By Sept 1 Please vote for AIDG (Appropriate Infrastructure Development Group) to help them get $500K, only 9 days left! I have great respect for the folks over there and what they are doing. Click on the image below for more information. Here is the AIDG blog and here is a short description of their project is below. Your vote can help push them to the next round:

Description
“Half the world lives on less than $2 a day, but there are few products made for them other than by charity NGOs and universities. Look around yourself. Much of what you will see was made and marketed by a major corporation. I want to bring together experts in development engineering to help corporations create products that will alleviate poverty for people in developing countries. The right products can bring clean water, save weeks of labor, and help the poor lift themselves out of poverty.”

Written by Aman

August 23, 2008 at 11:28 am

Rapid HIV CD4 Counter (8 minutes)

With slight modifications I lifted the below from the CIMIT Blog (note Video on their blog), certainly a needed innovation for global health:

Via CIMIT: Microfluidic CD4 Cell Counting for Resource-Limited Settings

“The HIV pandemic has created an unprecedented global health emergency. In response, the price of effective, life-saving HIV drug treatment has been reduced by 99%. More than $10 billion is now invested each year to treat people suffering from HIV and AIDS…BUT Treatment is only half the battle. “

“Of the 33 million people living with HIV worldwide, fewer than 10% have access to CD4 counts, the critical blood test used by clinicians to decide when to start treatment. Fewer than 1% have access to viral load assays, which are used for infant diagnosis and for patient monitoring. Both tests are considered essential to effective treatment. The Use Case for appropriate CD4 and viral load tests appropriate for resource-limited settings is clear”:

  • Tests need to be performed by a minimally skilled health worker,
  • A the true point of care,
  • Reliably and inexpensively, and
  • Wth reasonable accuracy and precision. The HIV pandemic thus represents an unprecedented opportunity to drive technology development in point-of-care diagnostics.

“Based on this Use Case, William Rodriguez’s lab has developed a series of technologies for an integrated CD4 cell count device, with microfluidics as the key platform…Integrating these microfluidic technologies has led to a prototype handheld device that can accurately capture CD4 cells from a 10 microliter fingerstick sample of whole blood, and accurately measure CD4 counts in under 8 minutes.

Written by Aman

August 7, 2008 at 8:38 pm

New Global Health Center@MIT: Medical Innovation for the Next Four Billion

There has been a major boom (dare I say, even a bubble?) in global health degree programs and organizations at universities in the US. To a much lesser degree there also has been an associated growth in university based centers that are action oriented. There is one in particular (MIT center for Innovation in International Health) that I would like to highlight because they have tremendous potential and a great set of leaders. The other program I just heard about, Global Resolve, is at Arizona State University (more info at the bottom).

Jose over at Little Devices that Could is playing a major role in the new MIT international health outfit which already has several products in the pipeline. From his blog:

“IIH is a collaborative research program that spans across MIT Departments and brings in partners from around the country and around the world to create a rich multidisciplinary environment to launch medical technology for the next four billion.” (For more discussion in this area see nextbillion.net)

One of the founders is Macarthur Genius award winner Amy Smith. You can view her TED video here. A quick digression on Prof Smith, her bio from TED: Amy Smith designs cheap, practical fixes for tough problems in developing countries. Among her many accomplishments, the MIT engineer received a MacArthur “genius” grant in 2004 and was the first woman to win the Lemelson-MIT Prize for turning her ideas into inventions.

If you know of new innovations in global health, Jose would love to hear about it, you can email us or him. Unlike the vast majority of other actors in the global health sector, I get the impression that IIH is all for “high-risk” and truly innovative projects that can break the mold and solve problems today. This reminds me of the DARPA model. I’ll let you read about the fascinating history and structure of DARPA at wikipedia – but just note that DARPA played a role in bringing us the internet, GPS, and speech translation because of this philosophical approach of investing in high risk ideas. Wouldn’t it be great if we had a $3 billion slush fund to produce innovative global health breakthroughs? Yes, we still need coordinated public health programs and health system infrastructure development, but the stuff that could come out of the MIT center is also a major part of the picture. Besides DARPA the other entity that came to mind is the Pioneers division at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). The other thing I like about this effort is that they seem to be truly open to collaborating and connecting with other groups – so please email with any ideas you have.

——
Neat new other organization I just heard about, definitely check out what they are doing:

“GlobalResolve, is a social entrepreneurship program at ASU connecting students with projects designed to improve the lives of the rural poor in developing countries.” They are focused on sustainability and have 3 main projects:

  • Producing a smokeless stove system (clean burning stove)
  • Creating a water purification system in Ghana
  • A neurosurgery device to treat head injuries in South Africa’s rural hospitals

Several student alums from Global Resolve “launched a startup called Energy Derived, a company developing technologies to support the alternative energies market. Their first project is an algae de-watering system designed for the commercial production of algae bio-fuels”.

More information here: Social Entrepreneurs Develop Cleaner Alternative to African Wood-Burning Stoves

Written by Aman

July 17, 2008 at 8:55 pm

“Design Thinking” in Harvard Business Review (Tim Brown)

Cross-post from Design Research for Health: Mongolia:
 
Saw this over at Jocelyn Wyatt’s blog:

IDEO’s CEO, Tim Brown, wrote an article for June’s Harvard Business Review. This is a great introduction to design thinking.

If this link doesn’t work, go to the HBR website and look for the “Design Thinking” link.  Currently it is accessible as free content.

Brown does a great job of showing how thinking in design terms has value beyond products.  Services, processes, systems, experience, strategy can all benefit from design thinking.  And even with products, it’s not just about defining requirements in the late stages of the game, it’s about innovation:
 

Although many others became involved in the [Shimano “Coasting”] project when it reached the implementation phase, the application of design thinking in the earliest stages of innovation is what led to this complete solution. Indeed, the single thing one would have expected the design team to be responsible for—the look of the bikes—was intentionally deferred to later in the development process, when the team created a reference design to inspire the bike companies’ own design teams.

 

A couple extensions to Brown’s statements about the Aravind Eye Care System:    

 

Much of its innovative energy has focused on bringing both preventive care and diagnostic screening to the countryside. Since 1990 Aravind has held “eye camps” in India’s rural areas, in an effort to register patients, administer eye exams, teach eye care, and identify people who may require surgery or advanced diagnostic services or who have conditions that warrant monitoring.

 

In developing its system of care, Aravind has consistently exhibited many characteristics of design thinking. It has used as a creative springboard two constraints: the poverty and remoteness of its clientele and its own lack of access to expensive solutions. For example, a pair of intraocular lenses made in the West costs $200, which severely limited the number of patients Aravind could help. Rather than try to persuade suppliers to change the way they did things, Aravind built its own solution: a manufacturing plant in the basement of one of its hospitals. It eventually discovered that it could use relatively inexpensive technology to produce lenses for $4 a pair.

First, Aravind did try to persuade suppliers to change the way they did things.  The promise of a huge latent market was not convincing enough for existing suppliers to drop the price of their intraocular lenses (IOL).  It was then that Aravind built its own capacity to produce lenses, in what came to be known as Aurolab.  I would argue that both their attempts at negotiation with IOL manufacturers and their decision to produce their own lenses were reflective of design thinking.

Second, what Aravind did with outreach was based on the prior activities of the Dr. V and the other Aravind founders.  As far back as the 1960s, they were conducting eye camps while in government service.  The key innovation was a management one: changing from in-the-field surgery to screening patients and transporting them to hospitals for surgery.  This greatly reduced the burden on technical resources (surgeons and technology) and made patient followup easier.

Written by Jaspal

June 6, 2008 at 10:41 am

Global Health Council 5: We ♥ Margaret Chan

Friday ended with an impressive lineup of global health leaders discussing the disconnect between horizontal and vertical funding in the plenary session titled Meeting Along the Diagonal: Where the First and Last Mile Connect.  A webcast of this session, and 2-3 others from the Global Health Council Conference, will be available on kaisernetwork.org starting Tues-3-Jun-2008.  It’s nearly 2 hours long, but brings together ideas from the Gates Foundation, WHO, the Global Health Council, and USAID.  As much as it was about these organizations and the types of organizations (foundation, multilateral, advocacy, bilateral), it was about the individuals who spoke their minds:

  • Jaime Sepulveda, Director, Integrated Health Solutions Development, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Margaret Chan, Director-General, World Health Organization
  • Nils Daulaire, President and CEO, Global Health Council
  • Henrietta H. Fore, Administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development, Director, U.S. United States Foreign Assistance
Victor Kamanga of the Malawi Network of People Living With HIV/AIDS was supposed to speak at this panel representing the community perspective, but was denied a visa by the United States.  Nils was brave enough to say that it may have been due to Kamanga being HIV-positive.
The session was moderated by Susan Dentzer, Editor-in-Chief of Health Affairs, and her performance – one that was witty, but neither overbearing or spectatorish – made more sense after I learned about her NewsHour and NPR roots.
Administrator Fore spoke of USAID’s accomplishments and left immediately for the White House.  The session was awash in metaphors related to the theme: diagonal (Sepulveda), fractal (Daulaire), circular (Gordon Perkin, in the audience).  Dentzer synthesized the overall position of each of the speakers in a few words (in order that they spoke):
  • Fore: “horizontal aspects to vertical programs”
  • Sepulveda: “integration”
  • Chan: “connect”
  • Nils: “fractal”
The collective message for me from the session was this: health systems are complex, we need to look at integrated solutions, and it will take time.
Sepulveda’s framework for looking at health systems requirements was his effort to “make that black box {of health systems] transparent”.  His four requirements of health systems are:
  1. Stewardship
  2. Financing
  3. Delivery (personal and non-personal services)
  4. Resource Generation (people, information, vaccines, technology)
He referred in his comments to 2 articles:
  1. Walsh J A & Warren K S. Selective primary health care: an interim strategy for disease control in developing countries. N. Engl. J. Med. 301.967-74, 1979.
  2. An “forgotten” article that Sepulveda wrote in the 1980s in the Bulletin of the WHO on the topic of “diagonalism”, but perhaps not in those words.  (I wasn’t able to find it, but if you know of the article, please post a link as a comment.)
Both Sepulveda and Daulaire had some interesting things to say, but I want to focus on Margaret Chan.  About 2/3 of the way through the sesssion, I was so taken by Margaret Chan’s honesty and perspective that I wrote “I ♥ Margaret Chan” in my notebook.  I passed my notebook to an NIGH colleague sitting next to me, who then showed me his notebook which had “I [heart] Margaret Chan” written atop his penultimate page of notes.  He didn’t want to draw a heart, he later told me, because he was afraid somebody might see it.  If that wasn’t weird enough, I told the story to another NIGH colleague, who responded that she too had written “I ♥ Margaret Chan” in her notebook.
Some Margaret Chan highlights (keep in mind her emphases in her tenure at the WHO have been Africa, primary healthcare, and women)
  • Dentzer told her she was “the James Brown of global health”, a reference to her work ethic
  • “What works for Hong Kong doesn’t work for Zambia.”  This sounds obvious, but there was quite a lot of talk at this conference about exporting successful models from one country to another.  I’m not saying you can’t learn from successes, but there is at least some better work we need to do in adapting those models to different situations.
  • “Primary healthcare faded from the vocabulary of global health.”  She cited Periago’s “crushed” comment from earlier in the day.  In fact, she brought in a lot of examples of what other people were saying throughout the day, so it’s clear that she was listening.
  • One of the other examples she brought up was a Johns Hopkins professor who in a morning comment advocated for “health impact assessments” like “environmental impact assessments” prior to doing something new.  (Sorry, don’t know the name of the JHU professor.)
  • “Famous soft drink”.  She didn’t name it because she didn’t want to advertise for it, but asked “why can’t we get to the same areas of the world?” (a reference to technologies like vaccines and medicines).  If we can’t do that, “we fail our people”.
  • “It’s easy to blame people when you fail.”
  • In referring to her 30+ years of experience: “I look young, but I’m not”.
  • “Primary healthcare was alive” in places like Brazil, India, and Argentina, even though it wasn’t in the “official vocabulary”.
  • “I’m not going to repeat the WHO definition of health.  To me health is a social objective.”
  • In indicating that we need to train more mid-level professionals: “For the clinicians in the audience, don’t worry, there’s plenty of work.”
  • “We have not listened enough.”  “We underestimate the ingenuity of the community.” “If you say ‘talk is one thing, walk is another’, I rest my case.”
  • “We are insular. We only look at the health sector.”  We need to look at safe water and sanitation, education, etc.
  • “Ministry of Health [alone] cannot handle the complexity of the situation.”
  • “Let’s be realistic. Even NGOs are making profits.”
  • “Why is it that working with industry is seen as dirty?” “Industry is part of the solution.”  We need to work with food and pharmaceutical industries.
  • Peer review is “another elephant in the room”- Chan identified most of the elephants.  It is a process by which “your friends condone your work”.

And my favorite, because it directly addresses the work I do and that we need to advocate for in the development of new technologies and services:

  • “I didn’t realize that the color of bednets makes a difference.”
  • “It wasn’t until we brought in the anthropologists that we found out that the color red represented death.”
  • They changed the color to yellow and people started to use them.
I encourage you to watch the session if you can spare the time.  Posted from the Wi-Fi bus between DC and New York.

Global Health Council 1: Social Marketing

On Tuesday of the conference, I attended the Social Marketing to Facilitate Behavior Change and Action workshop.  I personally found it to be very educational, although I did have one gripe (see #3 below).  A few thoughts I had during the workshop:

(1) Creating new products and the lead user. In describing the role of social marketing, the facilitators considered the question “how do we make the choice easier [for adopting healthier behaviors]?”.  Their answer was “creating new products” and the example they gave was the LifeStraw.  A woman from Vestergaard-Frandsen, the company that makes LifeStraw, was in the audience and shared the story of the conceptual development of the product – it seems this was a case of a lead user.  One of the fieldworkers who worked on a national Guinea worm eradication campaign created her/his own life straw with reed and some mesh for local use.

(2) Social marketing and social design ethnography. The reason I went to this workshop was to establish a better understanding of how my work relates to social marketing.  My work uses applied ethnography for the purposes of design in global health, not just products, but also services and systems.  While there is considerable overlap, the idea of creating new products felt like an awkward fit within the framework of social marketing.  I expect it was there because it has no other home (e.g. social product design).  The danger in placing it in the context of social marketing is that it may ignore the considerable knowledge we have developed and are developing in the field of human-centered design.  There is also a difference in the methods.  Ethnographic research seems play a minor role in social marketing, and as in many fields, the label ethnographic seems to be used fairly loosely.

(3) Know your audience.  The majority of examples (not all) in the workshop were drawn from the US context (e.g. commercial advertisements, surveys, anecdotes), and further weren’t well-contextualized.  Not what I expected at a global health conference, with a very international group, where the focus of the workshop was “know your audience”.

(4) Adapt, don’t adopt. One of global health’s strengths is that it borrows from so many diverse fields.  The dangers with this are in simply adopting the idea rather than adapting it to the contexts of global health. In the case of social marketing the ideas that have been borrowed are framework (effect behavior change), process (how to understand your consumer), and theory (behavior change models).  The typical dangers of doing this are: (a) what is borrowed can be viewed as gospel (e.g. if Madison Ave. does it this way, it must be right) or (b) the ideas don’t progress as they do in the original field (e.g. is social marketing making use of advances in commercial marketing?  is it evolving on its own?).  I still don’t know enough about social marketing to argue this, but I’ve seen this pattern with other ideas that have been borrowed across fields.

(5) “We’ve already been doing this”. One of the audience members brought up the fact that people have been doing this for a long time in many places and that it simply hasn’t had the “social marketing” label.  Agreed, but in my opinion – and that of the facilitators – the value is in the framework.  By creating a formal way of thinking, we can improve the social marketing work that people have been doing by other names, and bring it to people who haven’t been thinking in these terms.

Ben was there for part of the workshop and may have more thoughts.

Update from Aman – here are some other great resources in the area of social marketing:
http://socialmarketing.blogs.com/
http://pulseandsignal.com/
http://www.social-marketing.com/blog/

Written by Jaspal

May 28, 2008 at 8:35 am