Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Using Google's Fusion Tables to visualize information

Instead of putting up a news article today, I wanted to discuss a Google tool that I recently made use of to help visualize a large amount of information, Google Fusion Tables. I along with a partner made use of this tool for a couple of Health 2.0 challenges. We were looking for a tool that would allow us to create a map of certain data points without requiring programming skills like the Processing visualization tool.

While Fusion Tables may not deliver a visualization product that comes anywhere close to what you could experience with Processing, it does a good job of plotting out your data points on an international, national, state or even local basis. It also allows you to share tables with partners so that they can collaborate on creation and editing. In addition, you can make your table public (to share with all), unlisted (to share with those who have the direct link), or private.

For one competition, we ended up using Fusion Tables to plot out the 2006-2008 birth rate data across the country. This included data that provided information by ethnic group, delivery method and number of Medicaid paid births. You can view that table here:

For another competition, we plotted out organizations that had received diabetes-related grants during 2009-2011. The reason why we did this was because we wanted to provide a new way for professionals working with diabetes in their own communities to seek out potential partners that were already involved in that kind of work. We figured that the best way to do this was to plot on a map those organizations that were successful enough to win a grant to fund their work. You can view the map here: (make sure to select the full address option in the location area so that you can view the information as it was intended).

If you click on each red dot on the diabetes partnership map, you will see the following:
- Organization information (contact information, location, county, website (if available) and phone number).
- 2007-2009 adult diabetes stats for the state in which the organization is located.
- A link to American Fact Finder Census data for each location.
- A link to the County Health Rankings site for each county the organization is located in.

In addition, we created a Google custom search engine for professionals to find the targeted authoritative diabetes-related information they need. We thought this was a good idea as a search for "diabetes" in a regular search engine comes up with over 110 million results.

While we didn't end up winning either of the competitions, the experience helped us think about effective ways to promote partnerships among professionals and grantees and how to effectively promote the use of targeted and authoritative information to those already experiencing information overload.

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