Communicating Health Data Through Stories: One Opportunity and One Resource

Does it seem like infographics came out of nowhere? Many organizations are using them as an effective way to convey information and motivate action. If you want to learn more about this exciting tool, the Community Indicators Consortium recently hosted a webinar entitled “Data Storytelling Using Infographics: Why, How and Where to Create Them.” Through our institutional membership to the Consortium, a number of the Cleveland & Cuyahoga Health Resource partners have access to the webinars free of charge so please contact us if you are interested in viewing the archived webinar.

Recently, the Institute of Medicine published a report of a workshop entitled “Communicating to Advance the Public’s Health.” In his role as president of the National Association of County and City Health Officials, Cuyahoga County’s own Commissioner of the Board of Health, Mr. Terry Allan, served on the Roundtable on Population Health Improvement that convened the Workshop.

Much that we are, or plan to do with the Cleveland & Cuyahoga Health Resource embodies the guiding principles identified in the Workshop report for health communication initiatives.

These guidelines include identifying the underlying behaviors (such as smoking) or actions (such as advocacy for policy change) that affect behaviors and health outcomes. In that regard, the Cleveland & Cuyahoga Health Resource focuses on the determinants of health such as health behaviors and the environment, as much as it does on outcomes such as life expectancy or infant mortality.

Secondly, the Workshop report suggests following a strategy to expose people to the message. Communicating with the entire community is beyond the scope of the Health Resource. However, our aim has been to provide a resource that many organizations in the community could use to communicate messages that serve their specific agendas. Thus, the Health Data Resource has sections geared to public health officials and health data experts who can access data and generate tables, figures and reports on their own. These can be found under the Health Data section. The site also includes a section where up to date indicators of our community’s health are shown—this is the Health Overview page. In time, the site will also include infographics that put these results into context and motivate action. The Health Action section is meant to serve organizations that have specific action plans to address health priorities their groups have identified.

Guideline three from the committee is to “take a comprehensive ‘all but the kitchen sink’” approach. This refers to our growing awareness that multiple strategies are often required to change behaviors and health outcomes. For example, large reductions in smoking came about due to multiple efforts—physicians counseling patients and prescribing smoking cessation medication, smoking cessation counseling, anti-tobacco advertising, increases in tobacco taxes and restrictions on access to tobacco for youth. Thus, we hope that the Health Resource can support community efforts that take a variety of approaches to improving health of our region’s population.

The fourth guideline is to seek routine media exposure. Again, we hope that the Cleveland & Cuyahoga Health Resource will support such efforts among our partners across the community.

Share your own stories with us!