Representing Reliability

Color Legends


Mortality Atlas




Why Visualize Health?

Mapping of georeferenced health statistics has, in the past, led to insights concerning various health-environment-behavior interactions. Insights have derived from the identification of clusters of deaths on static maps followed by comparison of the cluster locations to the mapped distribution of potential etiologic agents. Spatial associations identified have prompted hypotheses about the causal relations, some of which have been verified. Examples include identification of "hot spots" of esophagal cancer in China and oral cancer in the U.S. state of North Carolina. Static paper maps, while somewhat successful in prompting epidemiological hypotheses, impose constraints on exploration of spatial characteristics of health-environment-behavior interactions.

Putting it Together

ABCDynamic visualization methods offer the potential to dramatically extend the role of maps in health analysis. Part of the NCHS effort here at the Penn State Department of Geography has been to design and implement HealthVis, a prototype dynamic interface used to explore georeferenced health, environmental, and demographic data. HealthVis was sponsored by - and developed for - the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (NCHS). Two specific objectives have been delineated for the initial prototype:
  • to design alternative methods for displaying dynamic maps of death rate and risk factor data in a user-friendly computer system, and
  • to test these designs in an experiment where users attempt to draw inferences about changing death rate patterns and their relationship to risk factor patterns.

Read the final report to NCHS entitled: Design and Evaluation of a Computerized Dynamic Mapping System Interface

If you would like to learn more about HealthVis, go here.

Project Funding

This research was supported through a series of research contracts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS)

Additional funding was provided to Dr. Cynthia Brewer by a Wilson Research Grant from the Pennsylvania State University.

What's New?

Download your own version of HealthVIS!! Click here (Win95/98/NT) or here (Mac) to test drive our interactive geographic visualization system designed to help epidemiologists better understand mortality. (Aug 27)

Group Photo

Dr. Linda Pickle of the National Center for Health Statistics (CDC) presented a certificate of appreciation to Willy Vancura, and David DiBiase of the George F. Deasy GeoGraphics Laboratory, for excellence in production of the Atlas of United States Mortality. Congratulations guys! (Aug 21).



Visit our growing library of online journal articles and reports that have come from the project. Get the latest NCHS and HealthVis news here.

Featured Research Project

Atals Cover
Design and symbolization choices for the Atlas were informed by a comprehensive research program, including research on color schemes and reliability representation methods conducted by Drs. Brewer and MacEachren. For more information go here!

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