Empowering people of color through community based health education
In November 2020, I took part in a hackathon that MIT was hosting about addressing structural and systemic inequalities in healthcare, focused on People of Color. I was matched with a diverse team with different backgrounds and experiences.
Our track was Social Justice and Policy which pertained to discriminatory procedures, practices and policies that exist within healthcare institutions. Over 48 hours my team ideated, researched, designed a solution, prototype, created a go to market strategy, and pitched to judges.
The project was a collaborative effort with people from engineering, clinical ops, spiritual director, and historian backgrounds.
Our key goal was to identify a problem within our hackathon healthcare track to ideate and identify a solution.
We had 48 hours to ideate and design
a product and community strategy based program
a product and community strategy based program
My role in this hackathon was as a Product Designer, and UX researcher.
In 48 hours, we iterated and designed core aspects of our product experience design and high level strategy with close collaboration with the team.
Decolonizing design thinking & modified sprint framework
It was necessary to be flexible in the design thinking process with the shortened timeline, but I didn’t want to miss out on core steps like research and prototyping.
People of Color are unfairly at a disadvantage when it comes to healthcare literacy due to barriers in access caused by socio-economic status stemming from colonialism, systemic racism & bias.
Before any designs were created or a solution ideated, research first had to be conducted to better learn about the people this product would be serving.
Two persona stories were created from a compilation of personal stories and experiences heard from research calls and created using an equity lens.
Qualitative research was conducted with 5 people to learn about experiences with healthcare, unique lived experiences, health literacy, where people go for information and community, and more.
• The topic that came up the most was that people wanted to find and form groups in places they already felt comfortable at. This looked like churches, libraries, and local rec centers; They already knew the people who went there and formed connections and friendships, so sharing and talking about healthcare topics would feel more natural.
• Also mentioned in interviews was more culturally-relevant topics like talking about high blood pressure in Black Americans, generational and personal trauma, how to advocate for yourself to doctors, and maternal care.
• Additionally, there were some people who felt comfortable going in person to talk and meet up, but others would prefer a more online community to discuss these topics as they are sensitive and personal. Having a way to digitally connect, became very important.
Empowering People of Color through community based health education
Lets implement a program focused on engaging with and empowering People of Color at the community level to increase access to health literacy & resources by partnering with community orgs and insurance payers.
After conducting some qualitative research, I started with a competitive analysis of other health products centered on community to identify exactly what we needed to keep up with competitors, and how we could improve upon that experience.
This was a collaborative effort where we each took a competitor and identified core areas where we could add value that were being missed, we reviewed communities in healthcare, tech, cultural centers, and more.
Similar products in the market appeared to lack in design and function, lack of accessibility, no native apps, and no partnerships at the community level to build trust. This competitive analysis highlighted big opportunities in the front-end design as well as on the partnership level.
After qualitative and competitive analysis was wrapped, I worked on the user flow and experience of the product and how it would carry over into an in-person experience. Working with architects in previous roles has helped me to better understand how information is organized and best understood. I refined the flow and information architecture of the product based on needs and goals we identified in research.
I collaborated with the team by sharing out the information architecture and flow of the product, and made refinements based on feedback from mentors and the team.
After research wrapped we moved into the design phase where I took all our analyzed and synthesized feedback from research and created insights and recommendations to move forward and quickly as time was crunched.
As a team we all created eight sketches in a collaborative session on a few key designs; From these sketches, six were refined and brought to medium/high-fidelity and prototype. This prototype was then shared out with mentors at MIT hackathon and with a few participants from the initial research call.
At this point, I'd love to have included more high-fidelity designs without placeholder text and include more images; Time was a big driver of this decision as the app wasn't a necessary component to our presentation, but it did help to set us apart to show the judges of what we could accomplish as a team in 48 hours.
Core features of the app:
-Community events and fireside chats (virtual and in person)
-Optimized for mobile with a companion web for greater access
-In person groups have a filter to sort by childcare on site, availability of transportation (if public transit was near or if they could be picked up)
-Personalized dashboard with recommended groups and resources
Our team received 2nd place in our track.
With our winnings, our team did end up creating a 501(c)3 non-profit so that we could provide equitable and ethical access to health literacy resources and community programs but we did not move forward with this due to other responsibilities and personal constraints.
"The proposal would have a significant impact on the community, I like the solution that the team attempts to address. I would like to see how the application is marketed and promoted. There are a lot of partnerships and relationship building that is needed."
"The small pilot for the program is a good idea to build trust with the BIPOC community. Kind of like a three legged stool to ensure pull through and ensure continuity of sample group participation."
Communication is key
Our team had a lot of different communication styles, and occasionally language barriers due to different native language speakers. After a few hours of almost constant communication we really honed in on what worked best for the team – typing was really helpful for those who weren’t native English speakers so that we could better communicate more succinctly without the potential for miscommunication over a video or voice chat. If further clarification was needed on something, we would hop on a video call to talk it out more and help to clarify with visuals if needed.
Time for research is critical
When research is crunched, or skipped, core aspects of the problem and solution may be bypassed. It’s important to have appropriate timelines for research to be conducted so that problems can truly be solved for, especially in the healthcare space.
Different perspectives are necessary
Having a different perspective not only helps you to learn about peoples lived experiences, but also to see the problem in a new way, and potentially uncover solutions that can meet the needs of more people. When approaching a problem through a design thinking lens, it’s helpful to acknowledge and recognize perspectives, values, and beliefs from perspectives outside the western ideal, this is where decolonizing design thinking was really helpful in this process and what helped propel me to refine my framework and practice further.