In seeking to bring the techniques of innovation to public health and the public health perspectives into healthcare innovation, Health Data Matters will incorporate both infographics and data visualization tools to best communicate Cleveland and Cuyahoga County health data via healthdatamatters.org. The “Health Data” section of the website includes data sets as well as infographics, among which asthma, premature birth, and infant mortality, currently exist. Three more infographics have been added to Health Data Matters to help tell the story about health disparities: diabetes, obesity, and education. The diabetes infographic summarizes how Black residents are disproportionately affected by diabetes, while the obesity infographic defines food deserts and depicts how geographic residence impacts differences in rates of obesity. Lastly, the education infographic paints the picture of what role education plays in health outcomes.
Infographics are visual representations of facts, events, and numbers, and can be used to depict health statistics, risk assessments, and resources to name a few. The application of visual pattern, illustration, and iconography enhance the way information is cognitively consumed. Therefore, infographics demand creativity such that they are designed with appeal and comprehension targeted to a particular audience, are context-specific, and center on relevant themes from a particular dataset.
The use of infographics in health communication can be seen in many forms on the Internet. The commonplace presence of infographics circulating around social media sites speaks to the ease with which these pictorial representations of health data are shared—as simple as one click, and health information can be distributed to previously unreachable audiences in an easily digestible, visual format.
For health data, infographics serve an important role for various reasons:
1. Compelling and attractive
Particularly when presenting health information that highlights a need for action (i.e. infant mortality, childhood obesity, safety, etc.), visual impact can play an important role in how memorable the information is to the reader. Ineffective presentation of data can turn off target audiences, resulting in missed messages. Infographics can demonstrate gravity and magnitude in captivating ways.
2. Easily viewed and shared
Data sets are often difficult for the general public to find. With the click of a mouse, health concepts and statistics can be shared virally, from any site to the next, on personal pages, or in journalistic formats; where raw data is much more difficult to interpret, communicate, and embed. Infographics are designed around themes and concepts that concisely tell a story, eliminating the need for sharers to reinvent.
Data sets can often be difficult to find via search engine. Because they are easier to share online than data sets themselves, infographics create increased opportunity for a given data source to be repeated over many sites.
4. Easy to understand
Arguably most important is the ability for visual representations of data to make health information relevant to many audiences. While accessibility can be literal in how people attain information, there is also the issue of complexity and level of understanding. Infographics provide the opportunity for both professional and citizen consumers to engage with health information that is equally relevant to both parties. By juxtaposing image and numbers, infographics offer a more equitable level of access for health messaging.
Data visualization differs slightly from infographics: data visualization is all about the numbers, abstracting data sets into schematics that clarify statistics in the form of graphs, maps or charts. These are usually constructed scientifically and automatically by software. Where infographics are designed to communicate a story, data visualization is less holistic and more quantifiable.
The goal of the Health Data Matters infographics is to increase awareness of the toll from health inequities, and motivate people to take action for change.
Ayanna Smith, BA
Case Western Reserve University, Urban Health Initiative & MPH Program