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  • Applying Human-Centered Design in Global Mental Health to Improve Reach Among Underserved Populations in the United States and India

Applying Human-Centered Design in Global Mental Health to Improve Reach Among Underserved Populations in the United States and India

Publication Year: 2023
Contributing Organisation: Boston College
Authors: Candace J. Black, Jenna M. Berent, and Udita Joshi
Learning Themes: Global Health

Introduction: Human-centered design (HCD) refers to a diverse suite of interactive processes that engage end users in the development of a desired outcome. We showcase how 2 global mental health research teams applied HCD to develop mobile health tools, each directed at reducing treatment gaps in underserved
Case Study 1: Refugees face higher risks for mental health problems, yet these communities face structural and cultural barriers that reduce access to and use of services. To address these challenges, the Research Program on Children and Adversity at the Boston College School of Social Work, in partnership with resettled refugee communities in the northeastern United States, used codesign methodology to digitally adapt delivery of the
Family Strengthening Intervention for Refugees—a program designed to improve mental health and family functioning among resettled families. We describe how codesign methods support the development of more feasible, acceptable, and sustainable interventions.
Case Study 2: Sangath, an NGO in India focused on mental health services research, in partnership with Harvard Medical School, designed and evaluated a digital training program for community health workers to deliver an evidence-based, brief psychological treatment for depression as part of primary care in Madhya Pradesh, India. We describe how HCD was applied to program development and discuss our approach to scaling up training and capacity-building to deliver evidence-based treatment for depression in primary care.
Implications: HCD involves a variety of techniques that can be flexibly adapted to engage end users in the conceptualization, implementation, scale-up, and sustainment of global mental health interventions. Community solutions generated using HCD offer important benefits for key stakeholders. We encourage widespread adoption of HCD within global mental health policy, research, and practice, especially for addressing mental health disparities with underserved populations.

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