By ideas42

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it clearer than ever that health outcomes for millions around the world are unequal and unfair. The pandemic has upended measurable progress toward improving the lives of millions of people and created new challenges for individuals, communities, health providers, and policymakers, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.

At ideas42, our mission is to use behavioral science to solve complex social problems with the aim of making the world more equitably healthy, wealthy, just, and sustainable. This mission is especially salient on World Health Day, appropriately focused on building a fairer, healthier world. For over a decade, we’ve used our expertise in applied behavioral science as a problem-solving tool to improve health outcomes and well-being around the world with a focus on the very populations who are often left behind. 

From addressing stigma towards disadvantaged groups to ensuring that women are able to give birth free of mistreatment, we are dedicated to applying our tools to tackle complex problems. Below is just a small sample of how we’ve used behavioral design, in conjunction with trusted partners, to address health inequities:

  • Understanding barriers to initial care-seeking among TB patients in the Philippines – Deeply intertwined barriers, like the ambiguity of symptoms and expectations of stigma, hold back individuals from seeking care for tuberculosis. Care-seeking delays have a tremendous impact on health outcomes and are often experienced by individuals in lower-income communities. We identified the contextual cues and psychological biases that contribute to delays in care-seeking, suggesting opportunities for innovative program design to improve health outcomes for patients with tuberculosis. This work was done under the USAID-funded Breakthrough RESEARCH project led by the Population Council and the Philippines Department of Health.
  • Providing tools to reduce preventable deaths during childbirth in Madagascar – Malagasy health workers face extraordinary constraints when delivering babies; they often work alone, must provide myriad services, and work without running water or electricity. Through collaborative design with health workers and other Malagasy stakeholders, we developed a set of tools to help providers in remote, rural facilities prevent maternal deaths due to postpartum hemorrhage. This work was part of the USAID-funded Breakthrough RESEARCH project.
  • Promoting respectful care during labor and delivery in Zambia – Instances of mistreatment during childbirth are prevalent around the world, particularly in low-resource settings [1].Under the USAID-funded Breakthrough RESEARCH project, we worked in partnership with Safe Motherhood 360+, the District Health Office of Chipata, and many midwives and women to develop cost-effective, innovative solutions to promote respectful care. A small-scale evaluation showed that these solutions led to a 15% decrease in instances of mistreatment during delivery.
  • Increasing accessibility and use of family planning options in Uganda – Fourteen million adolescent girls living in low- and middle-income countries want to avoid pregnancy but aren’t using a modern contraceptive method [2]. In collaboration with MSI Reproductive Choices and Marie Stopes Uganda, we designed a refer-a-friend program that works through peers to empower and encourage girls to access family planning information and services.

The theme of World Health Day is an important call to action to work together with the communities most impacted by unfair and inequitable circumstances. Interested in joining us to tackle health inequities with behavioral design to improve health and well-being around the world? Reach out to us at We also encourage you to tweet us @ideas42 to join the conversation this World Health Day and every day.