Evidence-Based Public Health: Using Data Visualization for Improving the Understanding of Data and Information
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Despite the potential value of data visualization for improving understanding of data in a manner that results in better decision-making in health and healthcare, there is little understanding of its applications in public health practice, particularly for public health program planning and resource allocation. This dissertation explores what can be learned from the literature through systematic review and from interviews with public health professionals as a means to inform improvements in decision-making among public health professionals by developing an understanding and use of data through data visualization. In the first paper, I provide a systematic review exploring the literature that examines how visualization can impact decision-making for general populations. Even though the evidence is limited due to a deficit of theoretical and methodological strength, the studies suggest that interventions that include data visualization have a positive impact on cognitive and behavior change such as decision-making, attitude, motivation or perception. In the second paper, I explore using qualitative data about how public health professionals use data, information, and evidence for their practice, especially for their decision-making, and their current use of and preferences for data visualization. Public health leaders use data, information, and evidence from various resources on a daily basis for communication with co-workers, stakeholders, and the public and for decision-making regarding their programs and services in various settings. They also have a high interest in applying visualization skills or tools in their public health practice as well as preferences regarding features or types of data visualization they want to have. In the third paper, I examine how data presented to public health professionals via visualization was understood differently compared to data presented in a more traditional table format. Even with the small sample participating in this study, I found that there are apparent benefits to using data visualization, such as making finding information from data easier and reducing errors in tracking data. This paper focused on how data visualization improves the “making sense of data” step – a step followed by decision-making processes, analyzing and summarizing data, translating data into information, and then synthesizing the information into knowledge. In conclusion, this dissertation presents the current evidence of data visualization and its application to public health professionals. This work suggests that data visualization could be an effective approach for improving decision-making and communication among public health professionals.
- Nursing - Seattle 
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