shows reduction of preventable diseases

Bill Gates: Too many kids are dying, but we have the solutions

I love this graph because it shows that while the number of people dying fromOriginal treemap communicable diseases is still far too high, those numbers continue to come down.  In fact, fewer kids are dying, more kids are going to school and more diseases are on their way to being eliminated.  But there remains much to do to cut down the deaths in that yellow block even more dramatically.  We have the solutions.  But we need to keep the up support where they’re being deployed, and pressure to get them into places where they’re desperately needed.

- Bill Gates is Co-Chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

There is an interesting discussion about Thomas Porostocky’s infographic at Stephen Few’s site Perceptual Edge.  This is my contribution to that discussion.

Related information

Washington Post 27 Dec 2013 Source of Bill Gates’s quote and a copy of the Wired graphic.
Wired, Lee Simmons 15 Nov 2013 Source of the infographic and introduction to GBD Compare.
@BillGates 18 Nov 2013 Tweet the graphic to a large following
GBD Compare Source of the data; site supports interactive data  exploration.
Perceptual Edge 10 Jan 2014 Bryan Pierce and Stephen Few redesign the graph.

Key elements of Gates’s story

  1. The number of kids dying from preventable diseases… continue[s] to decline.
  2. Those numbers are still far too high.
  3. Fewer kids are dying.
  4. We have the solutions.
  5. But we need to keep the up support where they’re being deployed, and pressure to get them into places where they’re desperately needed.
  6. More diseases are on their way to being eliminated.
  7. More kids are going to school

Reviewing the key statements and related information generated the following.

  1. Continue[s] to decline:  Suggests a time-series: line plot deaths x year.
  2. Still far too high:  Needs a comparison group.  Try Developed vs Developing countries.
  3. Fewer kids are dying:  Filter to show only kids data.  Age < 15.
  4. We have the solutions:  Low death rates for Developed countries supports this.  They also provide an achievable target.
  5. Solutions deployed vs. desperately needed:  Countries differ in commitment.  Map showing countries color coded based on outcomes.  Variation in adjacent regions suggest governance issues.  Immunizations might add support to governance being an important factor.
  6. Diseases being eliminated:  Time-series of WHO diseases targeted for elimination.  Line per disease by developed vs. developing.  This is a component of 1 and may add more noise than signal.
  7. More kids are going to school:  This is an important but unrelated story.  Drop it.

Points 1-4 tell the main story focus on them.  Then see if 5 & 6 add to or distract from the main story.

The original Wired article by Lee Simmons has a secondary focus: introducing the IHME site and its data exploration capabilities.  The availability of a good interactive data site allows the redesign to focus on cleanly telling the core story.  The redesign can direct readers to the IHME GBD Compare tool to dig into the details. Treemaps are the primary visualization tool in GBD Compare which suggests that Porostocky may have used a treemap to provide a clean transition to the sub story.

What I see when I read the key story elements.

Gates in two lines with text

While this is how I conceptualize the graph it is not how I would present it.  The following graph is my publishable version paired with a loose restatement of the Gates quote.

I love this bittersweet graph.  It plots the Years of Life Lost (YLL) due to kids dying from Gates in two lines no textpreventable diseases.  The lower rates in developed countries are a testimony to the effectiveness of basic public health practices: immunizations, medications, clean water, and neonatal care. While the number of kids dying from these diseases in developing countries is still far too high, those numbers continue to come down.  There remains much to do to cut down the deaths in developing countries and speed the decent of the red line.

The map left color codes Africa YLLs by countrycountries based on level of YLL (red = high, blue = low).  The variation amongst adjacent counties indicates that governance matters. We have the solutions.  We need to keep up the support where they’re being deployed, and pressure to get them into places where they’re desperately needed.

See Wired for an introduction to these data and GBD Compare for detailed data exploration.

Related quote

An early graph showing the prevalence of deaths from preventable diseases in 1858.  Think of all the preventable Years of Life Lost in the ensuing 150 years, the places and the causes.  Those charted below occurred in hospitals.

1024px-Nightingale-mortality
The blue…represent… deaths from preventable diseases
…the red…deaths from wounds
…the black…deaths from all other causes
— Florence Nightingale 1858

 

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