A question of trust: user-centered design requirements for an informatics intervention to promote the sexual health of African-American youth

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Abstract

Objective

We investigated the user requirements of African-American youth (aged 14–24 years) to inform the design of a culturally appropriate, network-based informatics intervention for the prevention of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STI).

Materials and Methods

We conducted 10 focus groups with 75 African-American youth from a city with high HIV/STI prevalence. Data analyses involved coding using qualitative content analysis procedures and memo writing.

Results

Unexpectedly, the majority of participants’ design recommendations concerned trust. Youth expressed distrust towards people and groups, which was amplified within the context of information technology-mediated interactions about HIV/STI. Participants expressed distrust in the reliability of condoms and the accuracy of HIV tests. They questioned the benevolence of many institutions, and some rejected authoritative HIV/STI information. Therefore, reputational information, including rumor, influenced HIV/STI-related decision making. Participants’ design requirements also focused on trust-related concerns. Accordingly, we developed a novel trust-centered design framework to guide intervention design.

Discussion

Current approaches to online trust for health informatics do not consider group-level trusting patterns. Yet, trust was the central intervention-relevant issue among African-American youth, suggesting an important focus for culturally informed design. Our design framework incorporates: intervention objectives (eg, network embeddedness, participation); functional specifications (eg, decision support, collective action, credible question and answer services); and interaction design (eg, member control, offline network linkages, optional anonymity).

Conclusions

Trust is a critical focus for HIV/STI informatics interventions for young African Americans. Our design framework offers practical, culturally relevant, and systematic guidance to designers to reach this underserved group better.

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