Using Human-centered Design To
Address Unintended Teen Pregnancy In Tanzania

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Pam Scott

Pam is a thought partner and philanthropist guided by a passion for insight, ideas, action and impact. She helps teams and organizations discover and leverage the inspiration that only comes from directly connecting with and finding design inspiration from the people they aim to serve – a practice known as Human-Centered Design (HCD). Since the early 1990s, Pam has inspired companies like Nike, Levis, and MINI to be more consumer-focused and therefore innovative, and helped start-ups define their brand and purpose in more compelling ways.

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The Issue

Complications of pregnancy and childbirth are the second leading cause of death for teen girls aged 15-19 globally.

Today, Tanzania has one of the highest teen pregnancy and birth rates in the world. The physical, psychological, and economic impact on girls is enormous, as are the consequences for their children – who are much more likely to be stillborn and underweight at birth and face health problems throughout their lives. Teen girls who become pregnant are less likely to finish school and find a good job, and are much more likely to die in pregnancy and childbirth.

Pilot And Learn

This project aims to understand the issue of unintended teen pregnancy from the perspective of the girls themselves, and develop and test human-centered solutions that give girls access to the contraceptive services they need.

Pam and PSI are conducting in-depth field research to identify the social and cultural causes of unintended teen pregnancy in Tanzania and to illuminate the barriers that prevent girls from having access to reproductive health information and services. The results inform in-country “design immersions”, which are week-long HCD sprints. Working side-by-side with creative professionals from the likes of IDEO.org, Factory, AIM Group and Restless Development, PSI and Pam are developing and rapidly prototyping potential solutions that directly involve teen girls, their communities, and health care providers. Prototypes from the immersions are then tested for feasibility, effectiveness and cost efficiency.

Leverage And Scale

Successful prototypes from this project will be primed for roll-out throughout Tanzania. At the same time, integrating the principles of human-centered design into the development of health programs for teen girls has far reaching potential across countries and organizations.

The HCD techniques used in this project form a key part of a $30 million initiative led by PSI to reduce unintended pregnancy among adolescent girls in three countries, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation. More broadly, the project is inspiring PSI and other organizations to think creatively about how applying HCD can enhance program design, identify and innovatively solve problems, leverage internal creative firepower, and ultimately better serve girls and women. The research and ideas generated will contribute to the body of knowledge on adolescent girls health, especially when it comes to understanding the motivations and attitudes of healthcare providers when offering reproductive health services. These insights will benefit additional efforts to expand teen girls’ access to information and contraception in Tanzania, the region, and around the world.

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