Mortality Rates Due To Noncommunicable Diseases

Erica Patel

Background: Non-communicable diseases are an extremely important and pressing issue in global health today. Unlike many infectious diseases, which are mainly found among impoverished populations, the distribution of chronic diseases cut across socioeconomic levels and are prevalent in both developing and developed countries. This category of disease is extremely difficult to treat because it cannot simply be solved with vaccines and medication, but rather requires an enormous public health overhaul that focuses on prevention and fixing the issue at the source. Non-communicable diseases cause more than half of deaths worldwide and ravage both developed and developing nations. Every 1 out of 2 Americans suffer from chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. The numbers are similar in less developed nations with chronic diseases like obesity beleaguering many. However, the presence of non-communicable diseases is underestimated because the effects aren’t as visible and are often overshadowed by infectious diseases. There is no cure for most chronic illnesses and often only a privileged few are able to afford treatment. Meanwhile millions of people are suffering from the burden of these diseases and many eventually die because of them. The purpose of the visualizations below are to demonstrate that chronic illnesses are prevalent in all countries and to highlight areas that are in desperate need of more attention to treat these ailments.

Visualization 1: Mapping Distribution of Mortality Rates for Chronic Diseases (per 100,000)

This visualization is extremely useful because it geographically shows the distribution of death due to chronic illnesses. It is effective because it utilizes the value scale for color to visually represent the burden of disease (the more dense the area, the higher the mortality rate). I like that it’s pragmatic and simple—allowing you to extract a lot of information about deaths due to non-communicable diseases while presenting it in a clear manner. Mapping is a valuable way to present this data because not only does it show what regions have the highest distribution of mortality, but also pinpoints specific countries like Kazakhstan that have high mortality rates due to chronic diseases. Additionally, one can quickly compare rates of mortality between various countries like Russia and Canada, allowing one to gain a lot of information about the topic without having to study a dense data table.

This particular visualization created by Many Eyes demonstrates that the Eastern hemisphere has the highest mortality rates, specifically Africa, the Middle East, and Russia. Additionally, Kazakhstan has the highest mortality rate followed closely by Afganistan, information that very few—including myself prior to this project—know.

Scatterplot: Mortality from Non-Communicable Diseases (per 100,000 people) Separated by Country

A scatterplot is an effective visualization to relay information quantitatively about distributions. This scatterplot shows mortality from non-communicable diseases in 2008 separated by country. I used Many Eyes for this visualization and unfortunately could not embed the animation in this document. (Link:–2) However, on the website the scatterplot gives you the country and total deaths due to non-communicable illnesses when your cursor touches each circle. This is extremely useful because it lets you see which countries have the highest and lowest distribution of deaths due to chronic illnesses. Furthermore, the size of the dot also gives a lot of valuable information about total deaths so even if one was unable to scroll over the dots, he/she could visually see the total deaths per country.

This scatterplot shows that Japan has the lowest deaths while Kazakhstan has the highest mortality rates due to NCDs. Additionally, as you go higher up the line you observe that developing countries have the highest rates of NCDS and the ones on the lower end of the line tend to be developed countries like Norway and Iceland. It’s also very interesting because these countries have different health care systems and therefore it’s possible to deduce a correlation between the type of health care system and rate of NCDs.

Pie Chart: Mortality Rates due to Non-Communicable Diseases (per 100,000 people) Based on Region

Pie charts are extremely simple and effective ways to visually relay information. One can clearly see that Africa has the highest rate of morality due to NCDs, with nearly 36% of deaths in the world due to chronic diseases occurring that region. Asia is second with the Middle East a very close third. This visualization suggests that more attention needs to be placed in these areas to treat NCDs because the most deaths occur in these regions. While it is true that developed nations like the United States have a high burden of disease due to chronic illnesses, they have the resources to treat the illnesses and therefore mortality rates are not as high. However, in impoverished regions in Africa and Asia, those who suffer from hypertension do not have access or the means to purchase Atenolol or other similar medication.

Wordle: Chronic Disease Visual Art Representation

I really like using Wordle to discuss the burden of non-communicable diseases largely because it’s very eye catching and tells a lot about the topic with so little. For instance, by looking at this image you can clearly see that “chronic diseases” is the main topic (because it’s the largest) and understand that the other words are related to it. Africa is the second largest word indicating that chronic diseases are the most prevalent there. Additionally, the inclusion of developed regions like America and Europe suggests that this issue also cuts across socioeconomic lines and is present in these areas. Therefore, NCDs are not simply the illness of the impoverished, but rather affect all people. Including words like diabetes and hypertension allows the viewer, who may not be well versed in health terms, to understand that these fall under the category of chronic illnesses.

I found that the colors were very visually stimulating (the moderate/bright colors against the white background made them stand out) and the font suggested like something warm and inviting to look at rather than something too bold and depressing, which while they would have conveyed the urgency of the situation may also isolate viewers who are too overwhelmed by the visual.


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