PHNCI Offering Design Thinking Training to Advance Public Health Innovation

by Nicole M. Pettenati, MSLS


Focus on Accreditation and Innovation addresses current issues related to the Public Health Accreditation Board’s national public health department accreditation program, and the Public Health National Center for Innovations. This series highlights the experiences and perspectives of accredited health departments and explores topics related to the Standards and Measures, research and evaluation findings, and the latest innovations in public health practice.

As public health departments invest in modernization and improving health outcomes in their communities, public health officials must implement an intentional process that guides their department towards public health innovation. To accomplish this, departments can learn and implement design thinking processes with their teams. But how do you bring design thinking to public health? And what is design thinking?

Design thinking is used to develop innovative solutions to complex problems, keeping your community at the center of the process. It focuses on the needs of people, the technical feasibility of an idea, and its overall business viability. It is an exploratory process that is open-ended, open-minded, and iterative and has you fall in love with the problem, not a pre-determined solution. Practically, it inspires and utilizes creativity and fosters authentic community participation in identifying the actual issue and crafting the best solution.

Design thinking has three main components – to inspire, to ideate and to implement.

  • To inspire is to gain insights from the lives of others through what they say or don’t say, do or don’t do. Developing empathy and a sense of working together is crucial.
  • To ideate is to frame the opportunities and brainstorm ideas. Working in teams, participants develop as many solutions (including wild ideas) as possible. The goal is to find the best solution and not get hung up on the “right” one.
  • To implement is to experiment with possible solutions, testing them and being willing to fail. During this phase, participants work through all of the potential solutions to select one at a time to test through prototyping. A prototype is a tangible way to explore an idea, providing a way to learn about the strengths and weaknesses of the idea to make decisions about how to move forward.

Design thinking will heighten the quality of questions and ideas around an initiative so health departments can create services and programs that meet the user’s needs, achieve operational efficiencies, minimize risk when experimenting with new and bold ideas, and build greater engagement with customers, stakeholders, and employees.

Use of design thinking in public health is an emerging practice for agencies with a focus on innovation. PHNCI now offers a full-day workshop that will give you these skills, so you can put design thinking to immediate use. To date, we have trained more than 75 health department employees in the design thinking methodology to solve problems in their own agencies.

This workshop walks you through the essentials of a mock innovation project in an engaging simulation, designed by IDEO and ExperiencePointTM. Working as teams, you’ll tackle a realistic design challenge while applying the three phases of design thinking – inspiration, ideation, and implementation. You’ll emerge with foundational knowledge and real experience in design thinking so you can put it to work to achieve results in your health department.

You’ll learn how to identify challenges that are human centered, observe users to build empathy, form unique user insights based on observations, and create learning-oriented experiments. As a result, you’ll develop an awareness of and support for design thinking as an approach to problem solving. 

During this participatory and hands-on workshop, you’ll practice the skills to tackle a design thinking project from start to finish and encourage individual commitment to practice design thinking techniques. 

Following the workshop, you will be equipped to:

  • Integrate design thinking into your work culture.
  • Put your communities at the center of innovation efforts.
  • Grow promising ideas into powerful solutions.

For more information or to learn how you can bring this workshop to your health department, contact:

Public Health National Center for Innovations
1600 Duke Street, Suite 200
Alexandria, VA 22314
jfisher@phnci.org


Nicole Pettenati

Nicole Pettenati, MSLS, is a Research Analyst at the Public Health Accreditation Board, which administers the national, voluntary accreditation program for state, Tribal, local, and territorial health departments. In that role, she supports efforts to build the evidence base around accreditation, analyzing administrative data, locating and organizing literature and resources related to accreditation, and supporting other research efforts. She also provides support to the Public Health National Center for Innovations (PHNCI). She was previously a National Library of Medicine Associate Fellow, a medical library leadership program at the National Library of Medicine, and served the second year of that fellowship at The Mayo Clinic as a hospital librarian providing research support for staff. She received her Master of Library Science from The University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill.


Nicole Pettenati, MSLS, is a Research Analyst at the Public Health Accreditation Board, which administers the national, voluntary accreditation program for state, Tribal, local, and territorial health departments. In that role, she supports efforts to build the evidence base around accreditation, analyzing administrative data, locating and organizing literature and resources related to accreditation, and supporting other research efforts. She also provides support to the Public Health National Center for Innovations (PHNCI). She was previously a National Library of Medicine Associate Fellow, a medical library leadership program at the National Library of Medicine, and served the second year of that fellowship at The Mayo Clinic as a hospital librarian providing research support for staff. She received her Master of Library Science from The University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill.Nicole Pettenati, MSLS, is a Research Analyst at the Public Health Accreditation Board, which administers the national, voluntary accreditation program for state, Tribal, local, and territorial health departments. In that role, she supports efforts to build the evidence base around accreditation, analyzing administrative data, locating and organizing literature and resources related to accreditation, and supporting other research efforts. She also provides support to the Public Health National Center for Innovations (PHNCI). She was previously a National Library of Medicine Associate Fellow, a medical library leadership program at the National Library of Medicine, and served the second year of that fellowship at The Mayo Clinic as a hospital librarian providing research support for staff. She received her Master of Library Science from The University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill.

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