In 2018, University of California San Francisco’s California Preterm Birth Initiative partnered with IDEO.org, a San Francisco-based design firm, to undergo a human-centered design sprint exploring the question“how might we raise awareness of the racial inequities in preterm birth outcomes?” Our goal was to shine a light on the issue in a way that builds on strengths, and moves people to action.
This group was then trained to conduct listening sessions with individuals as well as groups of parents, grandparents, teens, providers, birth workers, community advocates, and leaders across our three locations.
After synthesizing over 100 stories, we worked with our community and IDEO.org team to develop prototype messaging concepts on prematurity. These concepts were then tested, allowing us to hear valuable feedback for various stakeholders, which eventually culminated in the Voices for Birth Justice campaign.
One of the strongest messages we heard was that Black communities don’t want to engage with a campaign that forecasts one more epidemic to be afraid of. People reacted negatively towards messaging prototypes that led with facts about disparities, or defining preterm birth.
By uplifting the work of birth justice advocates, we are giving people an opportunity to learn about birth inequities and prematurity that’s based in assets, not deficits.
By providing information on premature birth and the challenges that face Black communities in the context of a larger story around birth- in a positive, asset focused way- we were able to pique people’s interest and reflect their reality.
We also heard that if we want to enact population-level change, the campaign would need to speak not only to Black women and families, but also the providers, policymakers and institutions.