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Somali Health Initiative for Access to Care (SHIFA): A Community-Driven VR/AR Education Program Designed to Increase Pediatric Immunization

We will improve pediatric health by increasing immunization rates of vulnerable communities using culturally adapted VR/AR education.

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

SHIFA aims to overcome anti-vaccination views in San Diego, by engaging East African caregivers in community-driven development of VR/AR curriculum that is culturally appropriate, adapted to the end user, and able to track outcomes.

Explain the idea (less than 2,000 characters)

Somali refugee communities in the U.S. have an immunization rate of 40% compared with the national average of 90%. Causes include migration, political conflict, anti-vax views, and limited health literacy. Anti-vax views are fueled by a fear that vaccines cause autism spectrum disorder (ASD) - 1:32 children in Somali communities have ASD compared with the national average of 1:88. Our idea is to develop a virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) health curriculum that supports pediatric vaccination, is culturally relevant and personalized to the end user to address specific cultural sensitivities, hesitancy, and anti-vax views, including misperceptions about vaccine-associated side effects such as ASD. Community engagement in both development and testing is essential to our design, thus initial end users will be young East African caregivers residing in City Heights, the 2nd largest Somali community in the U.S. with 30K+ members. Development will be based on a systematic methodology joining public health knowledge, clinical expertise, and content development utilizing community engagement strategies to synthesize themes that can be storified/gamified and delivered through affordable, accessible media technologies. This allows for an immersive learning experience, which we leverage in our design by engaging caregivers and delivering to them a compelling actionable message via storification and gamification. We will compile data through a Health Information Exchange (HIE) to measure the efficacy and outcomes of our curriculum. SHIFA will result in: 1. increased vaccination rates, insuring that recent outbreaks of measles and other diseases will not reoccur; 2. the ability to monitor & improve pediatric health, and 3. reduced healthcare costs for a population of over 3 million in San Diego County. We plan to expand development to other refugee and non-refugee communities in the U.S. and worldwide.

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

  • Northern America

Geographic Focus (less than 250 Characters)

SHIFA will serve City Heights, a community in San Diego, California, which has the 2nd largest East African refugee population in the U.S. with 30k+ Somali community members, a majority of whom are low-income.

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

Initial end users will be East African, Muslim refugees living in the community of City Heights, known as “Little Mogadishu.” Community members face many barriers to healthcare upon arrival in the U.S., such as low health literacy, inability to navigate a complex healthcare system, and a lack of culturally, linguistically appropriate health services within the region. Somali Family Service has built a tradition of trust with the community by effectively filling these service gaps and connecting people to much needed resources. Family sizes range from 4-10 children. The people are close-knit, charitable, honor-bound and come from a strong oral tradition.

How is the idea unique? (750 Characters)

Our VR/AR health curriculum will be: community-driven, culturally relevant, research-based and customized to the end user’s vaccine hesitancy. Leveraging the most effective tech capabilities, we will deliver immersive, high-quality media on a mobile platform using storification and gamification aimed at dispelling misperceptions about pediatric vaccines. Using the HIE, we will gather pre- and post-curriculum data from consenting caregivers to measure vaccine awareness. Once fully developed, we will educate caregivers at points of optimal receptivity, e.g. at birth centers. Our diverse, cross-sectoral team of collaborative partners is committed to expanding production from general pediatric health to other chronic health conditions.

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)

Year 1-2: Bus/Mkt Analysis; Design/Test/Develop VR/AR; Year 2-3: Develop Curriculum/Training; Deploy VR/AR; Measure Public Health Outcomes.

Organization Name (less than 140 characters)

Somali Family Service of San Diego (SFS)

Type of Submitter

  • We are a registered NGO or Non-Profit Organization

Organizational Characteristics

  • Women’s health/rights focused
  • Youth-led organization
  • Displaced person / refugee-led organization
  • Locally/community-led organization
  • Low-income, high-minority community.

Organization Location (less than 140 Characters)

Somali Family Service of San Diego is located at: 5348 University Avenue, Suite 203, San Diego, California 92105 in the U.S.

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)

For 20 years, SFS has helped Somali and other African families in becoming responsible, independent and contributing members of San Diego through its programs that promote health, education, economic success and leadership. SFS is built upon a tradition of mutual trust whereby community members will engage in the development and prototype testing of VR/AR, ultimately benefiting from a health education program which has far-reaching potential to impact comparable populations globally.

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

SFS has a fully vetted team, including: Qualcomm Institute (QI) to produce the VR/AR program; a Chief Technology Officer to guide QI's work; a business consultant to deliver a Business & Financial Sustainability Plan, and advisors specializing in pediatrics, ASD and immunization. San Diego Health Connect will establish a registry for users to participate in a Health Information Exchange (HIE) to track impacts; Community Healthcare Workers will use VR/AR curriculum to educate the community on the benefits of pediatric immunization; Community Members will participate in focus groups to test the VR/AR and learn from experts including public health leaders, pediatric researchers/clinicians, immunization experts, and ASD specialists.

How many people are on your team?


Tell us more about you and your team

SFS has secured a high-level, cross-sectoral Leadership Team and Advisory Board of collaborative partners to contribute and advice on the SHIFA project. SFS strategically includes representatives from The San Diego Immunization Program - a partnership between UCSD and HHSA, which strengthens team cohesion. In its tradition of building community bridges, SFS has secured QI at UCSD as the VR/AR production partner rather than a remote developer unfamiliar with the community. SFS highly values community input in the design of the VR/AR curriculum, and all key partners have deep roots in community-based health initiatives and research, providing advisory and educational support to SFS, such as the latest research on ASD and pediatric immunization, and expert guidance to shape VR/AR product design methodology. SFS will serve as the lead agency on SHIFA, providing a wealth of knowledge on the cultural and social aspects that make this community-driven project so unique.

Attachments (1)

SHIFA Flyer 2.22.2019.pdf

The SHIFA flyer provides a synopsis of the program, its goal, desired outcome, and reasons for developing virtual/augmented reality to educate community members. Also provides programmatic contact information.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Marichu Carstensen

Hi Carrie, gamification is very interesting because it ads fun to the process. Will this virtual reality gadgets be readily available? How many stations do you need to make it work? Isn't it expensive to put up that many stations for VR?
Best regards,

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