Deaths From Diarrheal Diseases

Jessica Blakely

Diarrheal Deaths in Children 1-59 months old per 1000 Births in 2008 and Total Deaths of Children aged 1-59 months old from Diarrheal Diseases in 2008 are represented in the following four visualizations. Both of these data sets are found on When both data sets are shown, the difference between the two is astounding.

My first visualization is a world map generated from that places scaled bubbles over the various countries of the world, in order to show which countries had the largest number of Total Deaths of Children aged 1-59 months old from Diarrheal Diseases in 2008. In this way, without much effort from the viewer, the countries with the largest number of deaths can be easily seen, based solely on the size of each of the bubbles. As one can see, China and India hold the largest proportions throughout the globe. Furthermore, the red color of the bubbles is visually alarming, as our culture is trained to view red as a color associated with danger and fear. If this visualization had been made using blue bubbles, it would not have had nearly as much of a shocking effect.

Although this visualization is efficient at simply informing the viewer the basics of the data set, it fails at explaining why these facts may be the case. For example, if one quickly glanced at the map, he or she would be immediately convinced that the United States has a large problem with diarrheal disease. However, this is not true. Because the data set does not say anything about the size of the countries’ populations, this graphic visualization is not well-suited for the data. In fact, the United States had one of the smallest proportions of its child population die of diarrheal disease in 2008, but this is not shown in this visualization.

My second visualization is a much more accurate representation of Total Deaths of Children Aged 1-59 months old from Diarrheal Diseases in 2008, when compared to my first visualization. This visualization, a bubble diagram generated by ManyEyes, has all of the countries around the world grouped into ten main regions. In this way, the viewer will see the proportional breakdown of total deaths of diarrheal diseases around the world via region, which cannot easily be seen when each individual country is shown. This is because smaller countries, although in the same region, will likely have a smaller amount of deaths, solely because of their small individual populations. However, when grouped into a region, the number of deaths will accumulate and create a substantial number, as is shown in this visualization. Northern Africa had the highest total number, following by Mainland Asia, the Middle East, and Southern Africa. One aspect where this diagram fails is color, since the site-generated colors are muted in saturation and have calming hues. Therefore, attention is not easily drawn to the bubbles, as it would be if more bright and alarming hues were used.

Diarrheal Deaths in Children 1-59 months old per 1000 Births is shown in my third visualization. In this depiction, a few recognizable countries from each of the main regions of the world were selected to serve as representatives for their respective regions. A different color denotes each respective region, and the countries’ names and percentages are contained within boxes. The diagram is in the shape of a vertical organization chart, and each county is connected with a line. This vertical ‘line’ helps to group all the boxes together, as well as guide the viewer’s eyes around the chart. The boxes that surround the countries’ names are increasingly larger, as the percent of the deaths per 1000 births increases. The data shown in the visualization are the number of deaths per 1000 births per country. As shown in the graph, certain regions of the world are concentrated at the bottom of the chart, thus showing that diarrheal diseases do not cause a significant percent of deaths in young children in those regions. On the other hand, it can be concluded that countries within a region tend to have similar percentages in this data set, as they tend to remain grouped relatively close together, with the Middle East as an exception to this generalized rule. Color in this chart was only used to group regions together, as opposed to its use in my first visualization. Another aspect of this visualization is its tree-like imagery, which, when juxtaposed with the increasing sizes of the boxes, draws the viewers’ eyes up to Afghanistan, which held the world’s highest percentage of young children dying from diarrheal disease in 2008.

Fig. 4 is a visualization that is broken into two parts. In Fig. 4.1, a map of Asia that is drawn scaled to size. Each country has a different color, in order to help show the borders between countries. In Fig. 4.2, the countries’ sizes have been skewed, based on Diarrheal Deaths in Children 1-59 months old per 1000 Births, 2008. The colors used in Fig. 4.1 are kept the same, which keeps ease of country identification when looking between the two maps. No words are used on either map, so the viewer is forced to identify the countries based on color and size. In this way, it becomes obvious that some of the smallest and least-thought-of countries in the region have the largest percentages of diarrheal disease-related deaths in young children, while the largest and most-recognized countries have the smallest. Overall, I believe this form of visualization is most effective with this data set, because of its interactive nature. The viewer becomes immersed in it, as they must actively identify each country in order to fully appreciate it.


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