Interactive visualization of public health indicators to support policymaking: An exploratory study

Moutasem Zakkar, Kamran Sedig


Purpose: The purpose of this study is to examine the use of interactive visualizations to represent data/information related to social determinants of health and public health indicators, and to investigate the benefits of such visualizations for health policymaking. Methods: The study developed a prototype for an online interactive visualization tool that represents the social determinants of health. The study participants explored and used the tool. The tool was evaluated using the informal user experience evaluation method. This method involves the prospective users of a tool to use and play with it and their feedback to be collected through interviews. Results: Using visualizations to represent and interact with health indicators has advantages over traditional representation techniques that do not allow users to interact with the information. Communicating healthcare indicators to policymakers is a complex task because of the complexity of the indicators, diversity of audiences, and different audience needs. This complexity can lead to information misinterpretation, which occurs when users of the health data ignore or do not know why, where, and how the data has been produced, or where and how it can be used. Conclusions: Public health policymaking is a complex process, and data is only one element among others needed in this complex process. Researchers and healthcare organizations should conduct a strategic evaluation to assess the usability of interactive visualizations and decision support tools before investing in these tools. Such evaluation should take into consideration the cost, ease of use, learnability, and efficiency of those tools, and the factors that influence policymaking.

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Online Journal of Public Health Informatics * ISSN 1947-2579 *