I had the privilege to attend IDDS Aaryogram design summit in Chennai. This was a great experience that helped me frame my understanding of how participatory design approaches can be brought to health systems. The structure of the month long summit was a structured series of exercises working towards discovering and co-designing a product to support the health system in rural Tamil-Nadu. My team and I focused on the challenge of medication adherence in villages where the cost of transportation to a pharmacy was the same as the cost of medication.
Through a series of interview with leaders in the Kumuzhi and Karanai Puthuchery villages, we heard a lot about how access to medications was problematic and that there was a need for more resources. Our next step was to spend time shadowing the local ASHA and finding opportunities to meet local people to understand where there problems actually were. Lastly, we engaged with larger community organizations, and used design probes to shape conversations around appropriate technologies and systems.
What emerged was a picture of type 2 diabetes, where symptoms were made worse because a chronic condition was being treated for symptoms and the local health systems were stretched too thin to provide adequate education or follow up.
Our final design product was a medication delivery service centered around a cold-storage backpack. We felt that the most pressing issue was the patient’s cost to get the medicine and follow up treatment needed to treat their condition, so we decided to find a way to bring the care to them. Ideally this service would employ local people, and give them simple medical training that would then be augmented by a mobile application to communicate with a staff physician.
IDDS helped me put context around the work I had done at iKure and helped me frame a sustainable discussion around working in other cultural contexts. Through a process of participatory design, there are ways to help communities get the solutions they need. There is definitely a place where I should be helping them do cool stuff.