Thursday, May 05, 2022

Data visualization - public health resources

I have been using maps since 1993 to focus attention and resources on neighborhoods with high poverty, where kids and families need extra support. In the photo at the left I'm pointing to a 1994 Chicago Tribune article talking about "240,000 City kids at risk." 

I started collecting research articles and "how to" information in the 1970s and accelerated that work when we formed the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993.  In 1998 we started putting the library and our ideas on the Internet and the library has grown much larger since then.  

It's intended to be information anyone can use to reach those "city kids at risk" with programs and services that help them move through school and into adult lives with jobs that enable them to raise their own kids free of poverty.  

While I started using maps in 1993 the use of maps and data visualizations really did not gain much traction until the mid 2000s when newer technologies were made available.  Since then there are many on-line resources where  you can find uses of maps.  I point to many from this section and this section of the tutor/mentor library. 

I add new links regularly.  

One way that I highlight what's in the library is through the use of concept maps created using cMapTools. This week I learned about some new public health data visualization platforms, so I added them to the library, and to two of my concept maps.

This first map can be found at

This concept map shows a variety of data visualization platforms, related to poverty, inequality, education and public health.  At the bottom of each node is a small box. If you put your mouse over it you will see one or more links that will open to the website once you click on them.  

This second concept map focuses more specifically on public health and the Social Determinants of Health.  Find it at

You'll notice that this concept map focuses on "HOPE" as a powerful medicine.  Much of the research that I've read points to the truth of this.  In areas where people live without hope, there are high incidences of poor health, violence, crime, depression, etc.  Just providing "hope" and "opportunity" changes those conditions.

In both of the concept maps there is a node titled "Public Health Data Resources".  I added it this week after reviewing work done by a company called RS21, which is a "data science company that uses artificial intelligence, data engineering, user experience design, and modern software developments to empower organizations to make data-driven decisions that positively impact the world."  

That's pretty much the purpose of the web library I've built since 1993. 

Below is a map created using the Urban Health Vulnerability Index, created by the RS21 Health Lab

This version shows Chicago. You can search for many other cities on the platform.  I'm showing hospitals as an overlay. You can zoom in and look closely at any part of the city or surrounding suburbs.

The next platform is called "Zoom in by Humana", which was also created by the RS21 Health Lab. 

This also has data for multiple cities. I'm showing San Antonio here, which was the example used in this video. The description starts at the 28.49 minute segment (if you don't want to watch the entire video). I also wrote about it in this blog article

I'm highlighting the video because of how well the speaker describes ways to use the data visualization. 

My goal with articles like this is to not only show you some useful data visualization platforms, but to motivate thousands of people to use them to create map stories that build public awareness, motivation and draw needed resources directly to specific parts of Chicago or other cities.  

At the left is one example from the 1990s. When we saw the headline about a youth being killed, we plotted the address on a map. We added information about non-school tutor/mentor programs in the area, and then added a list of programs along with assets in the same area (businesses, hospitals, universities, etc.) who should be helping tutor/mentor programs grow.

Below is another map-story from the 1990s.

Since 2005 I've included maps in several hundred articles.  In this article you can find newer examples. In this article I show more. 

In this article I show more uses of maps in stories.   

These are examples that I encourage others to duplicate in their own stories. 

In the Urban Health Vulnerability Index map hospitals in Chicago are shown, distributed in different locations throughout the region.  In the graphic at the right I show a few of the colleges and universities in the region.  

Each hospital and/or university could have on-going strategies that help pull kids from the neighborhood to college and into jobs and careers.

In this and other articles I have been encouraging high schools and colleges to create student led Tutor/Mentor Connection-type programs where students are collecting this information and sharing it via their own blog articles, videos, PhD projects, and social media.  

If such programs had been in place since 2000 there would be hundreds of blogs like mine, calling on more people to give time, talent, dollars and votes, to build programs in areas where the data visualizations show great need.

Unfortunately, I don't know any who are doing this.  When I talk to leaders of companies like RS21 I encourage them to take a role in teaching people to tell stories using their data visualizations.  Hopefully some will take this role. There might be a lot more HOPE in some of the areas which continue to be areas of high poverty and high violence. 

I keep looking for others who are using maps in stories, with the same goal of helping mentor-rich youth programs grow in high poverty areas. If you're doing this, share the link in the comments, or on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn.  If I see it I'll add it to my list of blog articles.

Thanks for reading.  Please share. I'll look forward to connecting with you.  

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