World Health and Design Forum

22.10.2014 event

In October I visited the Dutch city of Eindhoven for the World Health and Design Forum. Planned in conjunction with Dutch Design Week, the event aimed to boost social innovation and inspire people to join forces and initiate crossover projects that contribute to active and healthy ageing, and healthy living.

The event opened with a fascinating presentation given by Dr. Claudia Pagliari, who is the Programme Director for Edinburgh University’s MSc in Global e-health. She spoke about the worldwide spread of digital health innovation, reminding the audience that although ageing and chronic disease are the key challenges from a European perspective, poorer countries continue to battle infectious diseases which spread due to poverty, conflict and poor sanitation. Of particular interest was the phenomenon of ‘technology leapfrogging’ where poorer countries are able to bypass intermediate stages in adopting advanced technology emanating from more developed countries. This is illustrated by the rapid infiltration of smartphones into developing countries, where most citizens have never owned landlines. From a health perspective, technology leapfrogging means that developing countries are not necessarily hampered by old systems in their ability to engage with new technologies.

Conversely, there are also examples where new technologies, originally intended for use in developing countries, journey the other way and prove useful to more developed healthcare systems. Dr. Pagliari gave as an example handheld ECG devices from India, which are now being sold in the USA. Indeed, the UK based organisation ‘The Health Foundation’ has recently published a paper on what the UK can learn from health innovation in India. Similarly, the USA has begun to invest money in community health worker programmes, a model originally developed for rural areas in countries where doctors are scarce.

After Dr. Pagliari’s presentation, we were given a choice of diverse sessions such as ‘The contribution of coaching to the Mind Shift in Healthcare’, ‘How to implement successful innovations’ and ‘Innovating for a Healthy City’. On the second day we were given the chance to listen to healthcare innovators as they pitched their ideas for making the user centric design perspective central to the development process and to the deployment of smart health business solutions.

To close we went on a tour of Dutch Design Week, with special reference to innovations in the field of healthcare and social design. My favourite part of this was visiting an exhibition showcasing the graduation projects of the Design Academy Eindhoven. Amongst the innovations I heard presented was a design that can be printed onto toilet seats to encourage people to watch out for the signs of bowel cancer, and an app which allows people to communicate emotions to each other using colour. In addition I heard about interesting social design projects outside of the field of health, for example ‘the white building’ which is a space without hierarchy which assists prisoners in their community rehabilitation.

The Forum was a great opportunity to bring together a diverse group of participants including policy makers, health care providers, knowledge and research institutes, hospitals, insurance companies, patient and consumer organisations and of course SMEs and industries in the field of health care and care innovation. As Tepsie comes to an end, it was fantastic to see how social innovation is being implemented in practise in a particular field and also to see the beginning of the process through the exhibitions of Dutch Design Week.

Feature photo by Jason Howie via Flickr Creative Commons.