Purpose: This case study provides a high-level overview of the human-centered design (HCD) or "design thinking" process and its relevance to public health.
Description: The Best Babies Zone (BBZ) initiative is a multi-year project aimed at reducing inequities in infant mortality rates. In 2012, BBZ launched pilot programs in three US cities: Cincinnati, Ohio; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Oakland, California. The Alameda County Public Health Department (ACPHD), the lead for the Oakland BBZ site, identified HCD as a promising approach for addressing the social and economic conditions that are important drivers of health inequities. HCD is a process for creating innovative products, services, and strategies that prioritizes the needs of the intended population. ACPHD partnered with the Gobee Group (a social innovation design consultancy) to develop the Design Sprint. The Design Sprint was a 12-week pilot in which 14 professionals from nine organizations used the HCD process to develop concepts for stimulating a vibrant local economy in the Oakland Best Babies Zone.
Assessment: Thirty- to sixty-minute semi-structured interviews were conducted with all 14 individuals involved in the Design Sprint. With the exception of one interview, the interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed, and inductively coded to identify themes.
Conclusion: Our experience suggests that HCD can: enhance community engagement; expedite the timeframe for challenge identification, program design, and implementation; and create innovative programs that address complex challenges.
Keywords: Human-centered design; Place-based innovation; Social determinants of health.