Health eVillages has been addressing the problems of healthcare professionals in the most challenging of environments, using technology and content as the solution. There is no doubt that we have been instrumental in creating positive impact and saving lives. Yet, when we thought of “Heal the Villages*”, we wanted to do even more—and in a different manner.

We wanted to do more than just “inform”; we wanted to “engage”. Employing the “human-centered” design approach, we’ve been able to do just that.

*The term “Heal the Villages” was derived from Health eVillages by James Mathews of ElevateX during an inspiring discussion with Donato Tramuto at a Health 2.0.

James Mathews, a mentor and now a partner to Health eVillages, has driven groundbreaking work with communities across different issues using the Human-Centered Design (HCD) approach. HCD taps into the creative abilities a team has that may typically get overlooked by more conventional problem-solving practices. It relies on our ability to be intuitive and to recognize patterns. It is also fluid in terms of selecting possible solutions, testing their relevance, and quickly tweaking them/trashing them all together to look for new answers.

With this approach in mind, we have partnered with ElevateX to focus on improving access to growth opportunities for the social and economical development of the people in Chellanam—our very first effort in employing HCD. Chellanam is beautiful fishing village along the southwest coast of India.  Located near Kochi (Kerala), Chellanam has a population that is eager to pull themselves and their community out of the cycle of poverty and other social injustices.

The three important steps of HCD and how we applied them in the design process of “Heal the Villages” at Chellanam are shown below:
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I have a challenge’ – Discover

The “Heal the Villages” Team brainstormed on various design challenges that we thought impacted the community of Chellanam at large. We had design challenges on physical health, mental health, poverty, water & sanitation, education, and livelihoods.

We conducted interviews with various different stakeholders, ensuring that we covered questions pertaining to each of the design challenges. We learned a great deal from conducting interviews, interactions, and just spending time at the community. Key resource persons of the community—such as teachers, social workers, hospital staff, adolescents, police, and parents—were interviewed. The major discoveries about the community of Chellanam were lack of access to quality and affordable healthcare, unavailability of mental healthcare services in the community, prevalence of abuse amongst adolescents and women in the community, flooding during rains, and lack of access to clean water.

Bonnie Schirato of Health eVillages and James Mathews of ElevateX engaging with doctors and nurses of Cortina Hospital at Chellanam to understand their experiences and the challenges of working in the community
Bonnie Schirato of Health eVillages and James Mathews of ElevateX engaging with doctors and nurses of Cortina Hospital at Chellanam to understand their experiences and the challenges of working in the community

I learned something – Ideate

Once we gathered data from the various interviews and visits to the community, we reconvened as a team and wrote each and every observation out on sticky notes. Each of us stuck our respective sticky notes on the wall. As we stepped back, and took an overview of the spread of the orange sticky notes, each carrying a certain qualitative indicator about Chellanam, themes began to emerge.

We then grouped the notes into various categories based on our design challenges or entirely new categories previously not thought of.

 

Observations and insights from the interviews written on sticky notes and pasted on a wall for the team to start ideation on
Observations and insights from the interviews written on sticky notes and pasted on a wall for the team to start ideation on

 

Our observations, grouped under the different themes, were then sharpened to form “insight statements”, which helped define opportunities for design that are differentiated and generative.

We then walked through a brainstorming session where we discussed “How might we” questions for various design challenges. This resulted in the creation of potential solutions to each of the community’s challenges.

I have an idea! – Prototype

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Coach Linson being trained by Rachana Iyer on the use of Omnio—the application used by healthcare providers to strengthen point-of-care service delivery to patients and communities

A prototype is an idea coming to life so as to test how well it fits as a solution to the design challenge. The “Heal the Villages” team is currently in the process of prototyping Omnio, our software program, in the community of Chellanam. Coach Linson—the community basketball and other sports’ coach—was trained on Omnio and its use. He has been using the iPad to showcase various sports’ videos to the kids he trains—using the BMI calculator when needed. This is just one way in which this program has been utilized at Chellanam, as the team continues to look for other ways to integrate Omnio seamlessly into addressing the various health challenges in the community.

At each and every point of prototyping a solution, the community is engaged and involved. They are at the core of healing the villages. This is the magic of HCD—allowing the solutions to form based on the needs and aspirations of the community, which is radically different from trying to fit communities around predetermined solutions.

We understand that we have unearthed more problems than we can solve at any given time; yet, this is what “Heal the Villages” is about—working together with the community and other partners to create potential solutions to the many problems we have discovered at the start of our journey.

Together, we heal the villages, and ourselves.

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