Designing resilient public health systems centered around the needs and realities of health seekers

What is Project ARC?

Project ARC sought to gain a deeper understanding of how at-risk populations interact with healthcare systems (institutions, facilities, and providers) during the COVID-19 crisis by focusing on their voices, stories, and experiences. 

The COVID-19 pandemic created a volatile situation for health systems and the people using them. Interactions with health systems, which are already riddled with frictions for seekers, were strained further due to the impact on essential health services and the relationship between health seekers and providers. Moreover, the stress put on frontline health workers and health system resources was unprecedented.

Using COVID-19 as an inflection point, we aimed to understand where the weaknesses are in health systems functioning under stress and illuminate where its users’ most pertinent needs are, based on how they prioritize under stress. More specifically, the objective were to:

  1. Understand the experiences of health seekers as they interacted with a number of healthcare options, and 

  2. Inform the design of future health system interventions which are health seeker-centric

While our primary focus was public health, we also studied private healthcare including traditional and non-medical care, as most health seekers operate within the framework of a pluralistic healthcare ecosystem. With the help of local partners in Bangladesh and South Africa, we conducted design research and ethnography from both a health seeker and health provider lens. Across three rounds of research, we also identified other actors who play an essential role in the care ecosystem and took into consideration their perspectives and involvement in the care value chain. 

This project has been able to capture often missed insights at the intersection of health seeker’s lived experiences and their interactions with the public health system. By documenting and analyzing the health journeys that seekers go through and the unique perspectives of the other actors in the ecosystem, we were able to identify and categorize a number of frictions that people experience while accessing healthcare.