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September 03, 2013

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Health ministries and global health experts talk a great deal about finding the right incentives to change behavior to improve healthcare, especially in the so-called developing world. Yet from a design – and human – perspective, they are missing the point. No one needs their arm twisted to adopt good solutions. Instead of developing innovations in labs and then trying to convince people to use them, we ought to start with the user and work our way backwards to the lab. What’s more, too often our pricey solutions are thrust upon and given to their recipients. This is a mistake. The market is often a better barometer of the success of well meaning efforts, even in impoverished places, counterintuitive though that may be.

Examples illustrate how this market-based “design thinking” can lead to superior results. D-Rev, the organization I lead, first learned about the absence of cost-effective treatments for severe jaundice by conducting fieldwork in more than 200 hospitals and clinics in Asia and Africa. A nurse at a hospital in central Uganda showed us how she placed her severely jaundiced newborns in the sun because she had no phototherapy device—a machine that is widely available in richer countries. She told us that more than 10% of these babies suffered brain damage or died from lack of adequate treatment. The tragedy is that hyperbilirubinemia, the medical term for severe jaundice, is easy to treat with blue-light phototherapy. Yet because of the difficulty of collecting data outside of Western settings, the global health community traditionally has not seen it as a major health threat to newborns.

Because our work at D-Rev starts with users—health workers in need of an inexpensive treatment for severe jaundice—we designed Brilliance, a state-of-the-art phototherapy device that targets urban and district hospitals in low-income regions. Brilliance costs one eighth as much as comparable devices in rich countries, making it affordable for facilities that typically never had an effective phototherapy device.

By providing a usable and affordable alternative, we believe we are able to do more good by charging money than by giving Brilliance away. The model translates across much of the development spectrum. To put a product up for sale requires that it meet users’ needs. Poorly designed products don’t sell. In short, charging money holds designers and manufacturers– not overworked medical personnel and patients living in poverty – accountable. Moreover, scaling products via market sales is a preferable financing tool to charitable donations. The market is simply a better validator than good intentions.

The world is beset by difficult problems in healthcare that are ripe for innovative solutions. The information most needed for these solutions to have real and lasting impacts is readily available – from users. To start, we need to ask them: How can we solve problemX? What is your experience with solution Y? Rather than pushing people in developing countries to change their behavior, the most needed behavior change needs to start with us – by listening.

For a longer version of this piece, please see Building Better Healthcare from the Bottom Up, published as part of the World Economic Forum’s blog.

Featured on:Social Impact

Posted by:Krista Donaldson

via Design to Improve Global Health | LinkedIn.

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Born in 1964, business owner, from Woodbridge, VA, owns ExcitingAds! Inc. (http://www.excitingads.com) and blog (https://search.excitingads.com). He was born in Mirpurkhas, Sind, Pakistan. His elementary school was ST. Michael's Convent High School, Mirpurkhas, Sind, Pakistan. Graduated high school from ST. Bonaventure's Convent High School, Hyderabad, Sind, Pakistan. His pre-med college was S. A. L. Govt. College, Mirpurkas, Sind, Pakistan. Graduated from Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences, Jamshoro, Sind, Pakistan in 1990. Earned equivalency certification from Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates, Philadelphia, PA in 1994.

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