many lines of complex source code cover the entire screen
Health Communication

Data visualization and health communication

Data visualization uses charts, graphs, maps, and other visuals to better understand data sets that are either very large or complex.  With the growth of big data, more and more companies need ways to understand all the information we collect.  Considering the world doubles the amount of data created every two years, the ability to visualize and understand this information is becoming increasingly important.

Data visualization helps health communicators as well. As we show disease outbreaks or chronic disease trends to the general public, we also rely on data visualization tools that help people digest this complex information.  However, we don’t always remember to develop these data skills as we’re learning to use plain language, active voice, and visuals with lots of white space.

Last week, UNC data visualization librarian, Lorin Bruckner, presented a data visualization workshop to this semester’s Upstream Downstream blog editors. While we learned many bits of information specific to data, this lecture also reminded us of some basic communication questions:

  1. Does everything on the page add to your message?
  2. Is there any way to make this work look less cluttered?
  3. Can your audience understand the information?

In data, design, or content writing it’s easy to forget to stop and ask these fundamentals.  Are you still using them in your work?

  • Kaeleigh Damico

    On the broader issue of communicating simply and effectively, I often find that not only do I need to simplify my data, but also my sentences. I use the Hemingway Editor to make sure that my sentences are not overly complex or written at a level that is incomprehensible to the average health consumer. For example, this comment has one hard to read sentence and one very hard to read sentence. It’s written at a 9th grade reading level. If I were writing to communicate health, I would want it to be written at no more than an 8th grade level.