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Breaking Barriers: A visual approach to demystifying vaccines

Implementing visually-based and contextually appropriate educational instructions to empower caregivers in Pakistan to make informed choices

Photo of Jimmie Harris
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Describe what you intend to do and how you'll do it in one sentence (required 250 Characters)

Through Breaking Barriers, we aim to implement visually-based and contextually appropriate educational instructions to empower caregivers in Pakistan to make informed choices about vaccination coverage for their families.

Explain the idea (less than 2,000 characters)

Amna is a 22-year-old new mother living in the Punjab region of Pakistan. Today, a government official came to her town and told her that her child needs to be given vaccines. Amna wasn’t sure what the vaccines did or why they were necessary. The busy official hurried through the explanation and gave her a small paper with dates and strange medicine names. Amna didn’t understand much of it, and soon forgot about the medicines. After all, her baby was already healthy. For new moms like Amna, they often feel unprepared for the decision-making that comes with motherhood. “Your life turns 360 degrees,” said one mother. Many expressed concerns with over-vaccination and refused polio vaccination teams, some felt bombarded with different opinions, and others lacked basic vaccination details. For all, there was a common thread: trust one’s own information to make decisions, sometimes over the medical professionals’. Our team aims to improve information access and trust for new mothers. Pakistan’s literacy rate for women was only 44% in 2014, indicating significant information gaps. Current material is text-based, and uncovering existing information requires a specific threshold of knowledge. It would be game-changing if all caregivers could not only access a similar level of knowledge, but also trust it. To meet these needs, we want to translate and contextualize immunization information from esoteric text to universally accessible pictures. For example, important dates could be aligned with childhood milestones. Instead of instructing parents to return in 9 months, what if you asked them to return when their child began crawling? Our idea could increase trust of this information by leveraging existing community infrastructures as dissemination points. By explaining complex topics in a literacy-blind way and mobilizing existing community resources, we will empower caregivers to make smart choices and increase their involvement, trust and stake in the process.

Which part(s) of the world does this idea target?

  • Southern Asia

Geographic Focus (less than 250 Characters)

This idea focuses on the stories of new mothers in Pakistan who have limited access to information. We believe this idea can be expanded globally to new parents.

Who are your end users and how well do you know them? (750 characters)

We have conducted in-depth interviews with several mothers of young children in Pakistan, focusing on how they prepared for motherhood, make decisions about parenting, and specifically their experiences evaluating and seeking immunizations. New mothers face many challenges around vaccinations, including sorting through conflicting information from different sources. The information health care workers provide focuses on compliance, but doesn’t really answer mothers’ questions. While some women have access to do their own research online, our primary target users are the 56% of women in Pakistan who are illiterate, but still want to more fully understand the vaccine program in order to make informed choices for their children.

How is the idea unique? (750 Characters)

1. It transforms complex medical requirements into simple pictures, accessible to all literacy levels. Currently, the immunization schedule is provided in a textual and sometimes verbal format, so illiterate caregivers are reliant on their recall ability to care for their child's health. 2. It translates the immunization schedule into a context that is more often discussed, monitored, and remembered by caregivers, such as their child's development. To date, no organization has tried to reframe the way the information is contextualized. 3. It distributes the information by using the existing trusted community infrastructure to disseminate information in order to disassociate immunization requirements from government corruption.

Idea Proposal Stage (Select 1)

  • Blueprint: We are exploring the idea and gathering the inspiration and information we need to test it with real users.

How many months are required for the project idea? (140 characters)

It would take us 9 months to conduct more interviews, codesign materials, and pilot them in partner hospitals.

Organization Name (less than 140 characters)

We are a team of designers studying human-centered design in the Design Impact Engineering program at Stanford University.

Type of Submitter

  • We are not yet a registered organization but looking for collaborative partners

Organizational Characteristics

  • Female-led organization

Organization Location (less than 140 Characters)

We are located in Stanford, CA, USA.

What is the current scale of your organization’s work?

  • Community (working within one or a few local communities within a region)

Website URL,,,,

Tell us more about your organization/company (1-2 sentences)

Stanford Design Impact focuses on using human-centered design to innovate and implement solutions that impact the world's biggest challenges on the themes of energy and healthcare. Our idea tackles the global challenge of making healthcare a literacy-blind right for our users, using a human-centered approach to create a contextually-appropriate solution.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (750 characters)

We have had informal discussions with a few organizations from the Pakistan CSOs Coalition for Health and Immunization (PCCHI), a platform through which CSOs working on immunization in Pakistan coordinate their activities. These organizations work on community mobilization and raising awareness about immunizations in rural and hard-to-reach areas in the country. By leveraging the existing networks and trusts that these organizations have with rural communities, we would be able to quickly test our prototype, elicit feedback in real-time from mothers in the communities and refine our prototype. The CSOs would also be leveraging the local religious leaders (imams) and using the mosques for mobilizing the community-wide activities.

How many people are on your team?


Tell us more about you and your team

Our team consists of Stanford Masters students in the Design Impact program. We leverage the diversity of our prior experiences and design to tackle this challenge from a well-rounded perspective. We have connected to health professionals, vaccine program managers, and non-profits in the healthcare space in Pakistan.


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Photo of Vincent Cao


Thanks for sharing! I love the team's idea to use visuals to better present convoluted concepts in immunization. I also like that you guys have truly considered your end market, and how much it will benefit the 56% Pakistan women population that are illiterate.

I am curious to know more about the implementation process with the partner hospitals and how exactly that will work.

Thank you, and I wish the team best of luck moving forward.

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