Visualizing Health, a New Website

Creating and disseminating best practices for communicating health and risk information to patients

Dates of Project: September 2013 through March 2014

Description: An interdisciplinary team at the University of Michigan created and tested an online gallery of visual images that clinicians, health researchers, and communications professionals can adapt to share health data more effectively with the general public. The team partnered with commercial graphic artists, website designers, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to develop the images.

“This is really the beginning of a whole new way of finding out what works, for whom and for what purposes.”—Project Director Victor Strecher, PhD

Key Results

  • The project team:

    • Developed a series of images for displaying health risk information, each one focusing on particular communication goals—creating awareness of health risks; classifying one’s health status and generating appropriate motivation to act; understanding the effectiveness of medical interventions; or understanding the tradeoffs between different medical treatments.
    • Launched a website (www.vizhealth.org) containing the Image Gallery and a design decision tree (called the Wizard) to help locate the images best suited to specific communication purposes.
    • Produced the Visualizing Health Report, which describes the project, offers suggestions for using the images, and includes survey findings indicating how lay audiences responded to some images.

The Wizard asks users to identify their primary communication goal–for example, is it to help someone classify the extent of a risk or the extent to which that risk can be altered?

“This project brings together a novel combination of experts from the commercial world and experts from the academic world.”—Co-Investigator Larry An, MD

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Vizhealth.org offers easy-to-grasp graphic images of complex data, driving more educated medical decisions.