Terika McCall, an assistant professor of Health Informatics at the Yale School of Public Health, is focusing attention on one of the most important aspects of mental health care: access to care. She believes that mental health apps offer significant opportunities to address the issue, but notes that many of the mental health apps available on the market do not really meet the need for support of individuals from minoritized populations. One reason for this situation, according to McCall, is failure to include the intended users in the design process. “They often go for the ‘low-hanging fruit’ of individuals that are more affluent, and primarily White. Then wonder why the user engagement and health benefits don’t translate to Black and Brown communities.”
McCall is working to remedy the situation by promoting inclusive design. In defining the problem, McCall explains that an examination of the participant breakdown of studies reveals who is not included, and she believes that unless we are purposeful about making sure those communities are represented, we will not know what users in those communities need.
“I want to be clear that technology will not solve all the problems with accessing quality mental health care. However, technology should be used as a tool to deliver affordable and culturally informed care to communities that are underserved. The scalability of tech has the ability to start to level the playing field, if we work with community members to create digital mental health tools.” said McCall.
As the founding director of the Consumer Health Informatics Lab (CHIL) at Yale, a research lab that designs and evaluates consumer health products, she is well-positioned to amplify the call for more inclusive design processes. She also teaches a graduate course entitled “User-Centered Design of Digital Health Tools” at Yale School of Public Health.
Dr. McCall’s background includes a Ph.D. in Health Informatics. In fact, she was the first student to graduate from the Carolina Health Informatics Program (CHIP) with the advanced degree. She previously earned an MBA in Management from Wake Forest University School of Business and also holds an MPH in Health Behavior and Health Education from the University of Michigan School of Public Health.
McCall focuses on leveraging technology in order to provide mental health services and resources to communities that are underserved. At CHIL, many of her projects involve developing mobile apps because mobile phones can be used by individuals who may have difficulty receiving support any other way. She is in the process of developing an app that will help to support Black women manage their anxiety or depression.
While acknowledging that mobile/smartphone applications will not resolve some of the larger systemic issues that result in inequities in access to care, McCall believes they can go a long way in helping to mitigate the barriers to healthcare services disproportionately experienced by marginalized populations. She also expressed her appreciation of the Yale School of Public Health for recognizing how important it is to design solutions with the input of minoritized communities.