Jaspal Sandhu Photo
Segal Seminar Series

Jaspal Sandhu

October 27, 2009, 4:00 - 5:00 p.m.
Ford Motor Company Engineering Design Center
ITW Classroom (1.350)
2133 Sheridan Rd., Evanston, IL 60208

Building Design Capacity in Global Health


Women and children in developing countries suffer a disproportionately high share of the global disease burden. Each year, 1.6 million people, largely children, die of diarrheal diseases attributable to unsafe water supply, sanitation and hygiene. Each year, complications of respiratory infections caused by indoor burning of wood, dung, coal, and other solid fuels kill the same number, mostly affecting women and young children. And each year, over 500,000 women die due to complications of childbirth. Many such disparities persist not from a lack of technical solutions, but from an inability to effectively implement existing measures. Point-of-use water treatment systems can provide household access to safe drinking water. Improved cookstoves can exhaust most harmful indoor air pollutants. Misoprostol, a medicine that can be manufactured for less than a nickel a pill, can prevent more than half of post-partum hemorrhages – or roughly one in eight maternal deaths. But the disparities persist. While financing, policy, and human resources are critical factors, so too is a need to better adapt these existing solutions to the people who execute them and benefit from them. The various approaches embraced by the design community – human-centered design, design thinking, design research – have a significant potential to help meet this need.

In this talk, I will present a recent case of design thinking in the context of improving rural health services in Mongolia. The focus of this applied research project was on bagiin emch: nomadic, community health workers that provide primary care to pastoralist households without access to other health services. Primary fieldwork consisted of multi-day participant observation with bagiin emch at 15 rural sites in three Mongolian provinces. The outcomes of the research were not radical innovations, but incremental improvements to existing systems based on the active input of provincial health departments, improvements that provide bagiin emch with the information and tools to provide better health services to herding families. In this talk I will also discuss other ways in which design has been helping to improve population health and will propose some ideas about the future role of design in global health.


Jaspal Sandhu is a designer and researcher who supports technology and service innovation in global public health. He began working in global health in 2004, when he conducted organizational research at Aurolab, the non-profit product development affiliate of the Aravind Eye Care System in Tamil Nadu, India. Since then, he has worked to adapt the human-centered design process to various systems with the potential to improve maternal and child health. In addition to his recent work as a Fulbright scholar in Mongolia, he has also worked on public health projects with populations in California, Guatemala, Mexico, Kenya, Uganda, and Nigeria. Jaspal has worked and consulted in design roles for Intel, Nokia Research, Microsoft, and the World Bank. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley and Bachelor's and Master's degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He speaks Spanish, Mongolian, Punjabi, English, and elementary Russian. He is based in Oakland, California.

Contact J. Edward Colgate at 847-491-4264 or colgate@northwestern.edu for further questions.