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Human-Centered Design and Health Center Innovation Intersect at the CHI & EXPO  

workshop session at CHI

This post is part of our monthly Innovation Blog Series hosted by NACHC’s Center for Community Health Innovation. Merrill Warschoff Press is NACHC’s Senior Vice President, Development and Innovation.

While “human-centered design” as a concept began in the late 1950s and 60s, it didn’t really catch on with product, tech, and social developers until the 1990s and 2000s. That is, unless you were involved in the Community Health Center movement.  

Not only was the very creation of the health center model in the 1960s itself innovative, by design, by mission – and later, by law — the model prioritized leadership and governance by the people the health center served. Section 330 of the federal Public Health Service Act requires that the health center governing board “is composed of individuals, a majority of whom are being served by the center and who, as a group, represent the individuals being served by the center.” 

This sounds a lot like Human-Centered Design to me.  

So how is Human-Centered Design (HCD) defined? The ivory tower of innovation, the Stanford, defines it as “a process, mindset, and approach to identify meaningful challenges and creatively solve complex problems. It guides practitioners to understand and respond to the needs of specific people, question assumptions and reframe problems, and experiment to advance their solutions.”  

Another iconic innovation institution, IDEO, known for developing specific “design thinking” techniques and tools, defines HCD as “cultivating deep empathy with the people you’re designing with; generating ideas; building a bunch of prototypes; sharing what you’ve made together…” Notice the “WITHs” and “TOGETHER” in this statement? (Emphasis is my own — and withs and togethers like these, warm my heart).  

There are many natural intersections between HCD and health centers’ own consumer-focused mission: the Community Health Needs Assessment, elements of Patient-Centered Medical Homes, certainly consumer majority boards, and much more.  

NACHC’s Community Health Institute this year (August 28-30 in Chicago) features three different HCD education sessions that will take deep dives into intentional innovation and illustrate how the process and mindset of HCD can help solve challenges at your own health center, PCA or HCCN. (See the CHI Program or the NACHC Mobile App for session locations, speakers or more information). Take the plunge into HCD and join us at all three sessions! 

Human-Centered Design Sessions at the 2022 CHI in Chicago

Monday, 1:30 – 2:45: CMA2: Human-Centered Design: Engaging Key Stakeholders and Patients to Redesign a Mobile Clinic Using Telehealth for Infectious Diseases Among Rural Communities

This session will describe how human-centered design was utilized to conduct key stakeholder and patient interviews to fundamentally ask different questions about the things we come across every day, to challenge assumptions, and gain insights to better design telehealth for infectious diseases. Presenters will describe the methodologies used to enable teams to see things through the eyes and hearts of those most affected, who are utilizing mobile clinic services.  

Monday, 3:15 – 5:15 (in-person only): CMF3: Transforming Challenges into Opportunities: Human-Centered Design Approaches to Strengthen Fair and Just Opportunities for Health and Well-Being Within Our Communities  

Born out of a grassroots movement, community health centers have long been embedded in the communities they serve. They’ve cultivated extensive networks and partnerships — spanning school districts, housing agencies, food banks, and more — to drive improved services for the community. Consumer-majority boards are also serving an important role to guide work to meet the needs of the community. While community health centers have a central role in serving the needs of the community, there is much more we can do to advance health equity. There are human-centered design approaches that are rooted in understanding people’s needs and experiences. It can be an effective approach for community health centers that are committed to advancing fair, just, and inclusive care for all. How might we continue to grow the culture of innovation to advance health equity with our communities? Join NACHC’s Center for Community Health Innovation and the Center for Care Innovations for this workshop.  

Tuesday, 1:30–2:45: CTuA2: Using Human-Centered Design Principles to Maximize Cross-Sector Partnerships that Address SDOH  

As communities seek strategies that address and prevent the adverse health impacts of the social drivers of health (SDOH), they recognize that structural racism and discriminatory policies drive the SDOH and impede health equity. Effective cross-sector collaborations can be a force for driving sustainable and upstream change to better integrate systems for complex care. With support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, NACHC facilitated a series of rapid-cycle, peer-driven training and technical assistance cohorts to support local community partnerships by using data-driven strategies to collaborate on upstream courses of action that improve and sustain health equity. During the session, NACHC will share learnings from this work and will feature a team that participated in the cohort, to share their journey, the ideas they piloted as a result of the sessions, and outcomes to date. 

Graphic: NACHC & AAPCHO’s 2021 Design Sprints: Building Cross-Sector Partnerships to Address SDOH; Supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation 

Whether you’re new to innovation, or an expert with years of experience and loads of examples to share, join NACHC at the CHI for these deep dives into innovation’s most popular, and most usable principle – Human-Centered Design.  

Other Innovation Happenings at CHI  

Don’t leave the CHI without visiting our interactive Innovation Board “Threads of Innovation” in the Registration Area. Just answer a few simple questions on the board and help us map the health center ecosystem’s innovation journey. The Board will be open Sunday through Tuesday

Sunday morning from 9:00 to 10:00 join BPHC’s Center for Community Health Center Innovation for a Listening Session and meet their team. (Advance registration requested) 

On Sunday from noon to 1:00, meet our NACHC Development and Innovation team at the EXPO Hall at the NACHC booth, so we can share more about our innovation center, the Center for Community Health Innovation.  

NACHC’s Development & Innovation, from left: Merrill Press, Jason Patnosh, Jedidiah Barton, Camila Silva

Discover the results of innovative initiatives and enjoy the opportunity to ask in-depth questions at the Poster Presentations (Sunday 5:00-6:30 and Monday 12:30-1:30). There are 27 posters this year addressing innovative topics most relevant to you and your health center! Vote for your favorite by 3:00 Monday via the NACHC Mobile App. 

If you have a passion for innovation, sign up for NACHC’s Center for Community Health Innovation listserv.  

Have a challenge or opportunity that your organization used an innovation process, like HCD (or another innovation tool/process) to address? Share your experience in the comments or email us at 

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