A Design Thinking Mindset Beyond the Public Health Model

Date01 March 2018
Published date01 March 2018
A Design Thinking Mindset Beyond the Public Health
Kee Chan
In the era of precision medicine, where sequencing genome technology is emerging and extending to
the general public, a question remains unclear: Can we bridge policies and programs to foster a
human-centered focus on public health and wellness using personalized medical technology? Public
health wellness is a byproduct of the social determinants of health and genetic factors. Research has
shown that our epigenetic inf‌luences impact our health and well-being more signif‌icantly than what
is in our genetic code. How might we design our health and wellness efforts to achieve a healthier
population? This commentary highlights the application of design thinking as a driver toward a
human-centered approach in developing policy by maximizing our understanding of genetic code
and new technology in the context of human needs and values for population health. Using the
parameters of a design thinking theoretical approach, this paper suggests using a logic model
framework to assess and evaluate the impact of precision medicine initiatives on public health and
public wellness. By applying the core principles of design thinking: (i) empathy, (ii) observation,
(iii) ideation, (iv) prototyping, and (v) experimentation in a system framework, we can foster a
collaborative, collective approach to transforming public health.
KEY WORDS: design thinking, social determinants of health, public health model, genomics,
behavioral interventions
Since the completion of the human genome project, researchers and scientists
have conducted numerous genome-wide association studies (GWAS) to depict
biological markers that could be associated with disease and health status, with
the hope to develop better screening protocols, to personalize treatment based on
one’s genetic make-up, and to circumvent the manifestation of disease. However,
the level of accuracy and predictability of GWAS research to actualize a cure and
intervention was short-sighted, because we understand social factors such as
economic stability, education, social and community context, health and health
care, and neighborhood and built environment can have a more impactful effect
on our disease predisposition and well-being. Yet, even with the exploration and
World Medical & Health Policy, Vol. 10, No. 1, 2018
doi: 10.1002/wmh3.253
#2018 Policy Studies Organization

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