Why Data Visualizations Can Make A Difference In The Opioid Epidemic

Data itself is a powerful weapon in the fight against the national opioid epidemic, but data visualizations expose the trends that trigger response, policy and action. The 1 Life Project is building a National Opioid Data Center, with a dashboard of real-time data visualizations of the opioid epidemic; in order to help our community officials understand and end the national opioid epidemic.

What is data visualization?

While we have many modern tools to diversify the ways we visualize data- the technique itself is no novelty. Data visualizations have helped us solve and gain new perspective on challenges for thousands of years. Early Egyptians used geometric diagrams to survey and plan towns. William Playfair, among his many achievements, invented the line, bar and pie charts.He then used these tools to try to expose overtaxation in Britain. Data visualizations are also commonly used in the modern world in almost every specialization.

But did you know that data visualizations have helped END an epidemic before?

Dr. Robert Baker and Dr. John Snow used data visualizations to track and understand the cholera epidemic in Leeds in the early 1800’s. Using a map to plot out the areas where the cholera disease had persisted–a locational trend between local sewage systems/infrastructure and disease clusters exposed the source of transmission. The local contaminated water source was shut off by government officials and the crisis ended shortly after.


Data Visualizations Help Communicate Information Quickly and Efficiently

Our brains can process information very quickly, but as we know processing numerous spreadsheets and graphs is tedious.  In order to understand the opioid epidemic, analyzing large current, accurate datasets is necessary. Image based presentation helps communicate critical details for informed and efficient response. Data visualizations help optimize time so that the focus can remain on solution building.

Image Based Data Sets Reveal Trends

While understanding datasets is easier with visuals, it is also important to identify trends. For that reason, we are building our National Opioid Data Center to be interactive. Users can see real time information on the epidemic and track death waves and overdose clusters.

Data visualization has been helping us reach new plateaus for centuries. The National Opioid Data Center will help us track the opioid crisis and save a life. Follow our journey on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook!

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