Using Human-Centered Design Principles to Promote Engagement and Adoption of Digital mHealth Tools Among Community Health Workers and Families in Low Resource Settings

Session Date: April 23, 2021

Session Description: Digital technologies hold promise for extending the reach of evidence-based mental health care in low resource settings. However, building capacity for digital programs involves overcoming barriers such as supporting the development of tech literacy, and increasing engagement and adoption. Successful mHealth tools require thoughtfully-designed programs tailored to meet the needs of target users. We present innovative approaches from two teams at the Boston College School of Social Work (BCSSW) and Harvard Medical School (HMS) using human-centered design principles to develop digital apps aimed at reaching underserved populations. BCSSW will present novel co-design methodology conducted in partnership with individuals from resettled Somali Bantu and Bhutanese refugee communities in New England to create culturally-relevant imagery for a digitally-adapted family-based prevention program designed to improve mental health and family functioning among resettled families. HMS and partner mental health service agency Sangath will describe procedures involved in designing and evaluating a digital program for training community health workers to deliver an evidence-based brief psychological treatment for depression in primary care in Madhya Pradesh, India. These efforts are especially relevant in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, where in-person contact is limited, and could yield blueprints for improving mental health services in diverse settings.