Data Visualization and Content Adaptation in the Digital Health Context
In the world of international development, data visualization is in the spotlight—but is it stealing the show from other content adaptation approaches?
Data visualizations are undeniably powerful. They can clearly convey a complex story to a particular audience, and when done correctly, can serve as a call to action.
This year’s Global Digital Health Forum featured two lively sessions on data visualization:
- Andrew Wyborn of Greenmash and Sharon Langevin of Medic Mobile presented “Data Visualization Tools for CHW Supervision to the Last Mile.” The two presenters talked about how they provide access for community health care workers and their supervisors to data that could create proactive health systems. Such data visualization in the form of dashboards can make progress and challenges visible.
- Mandy Dube of BID Initiative, Jeff Bernson of PATH, and Aly Azhar of Vaxtrac gave another session on “Telling Stories with Data Visualizations.” They highlighted available technology, including mobile apps and dashboards, SMS reporting systems, and visualization software that can benefit implementers, evaluators, data analyzers, and frontline health workers. Jeff provided a particularly illuminating example of how mobile data visualization helped reduced malaria cases by 93%.
These sessions were engaging and inspiring—and made me think about data visualization as part of a broader discipline: Content adaptation. I facilitated a Global Digital Health Forum session on “Content Adaptation: Designing for the User.” My colleagues, Trinity Zan and Kate Plourde of FHI 360 and Caitlin Loehr of the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs, debated where digital health content adaptation should begin—at the global level, or the local. Their presentations highlighted critical considerations in adapting available health content, such as the need to engage relevant stakeholders for feedback (in both technical content and cultural relevancy) and the importance of considering the audience’s needs and goals.
At its core, data visualization is simply one approach to synthesizing or adapting content. Content adaptation is the process of making existing content more useful, relevant, or accessible for a specific audience in a specific context—whether that means translating, simplifying, re-organizing, or transforming (e.g., from print to digital). Adaptation can also serve as a critical bridge between evidence-based approaches and innovative ones: Something that is proven in one context can be innovatively applied in another through adaptation.
Understanding the vital role that content serves in any digital health program, K4Health recently released a new guide, Making Content Meaningful: A Guide to Adapting Existing Global Health Content for Different Audiences. The abundance of openly accessible health content—from eLearning courses and multimedia resources to guidance documents and research papers—presents a remarkable opportunity for teaching, learning, and sharing. The new guide outlines a framework with key steps and questions for consideration, accompanied by activity sheets, illustrative examples, and real-life case studies to guide users in making informed decisions in the content adaptation process.
While data visualization might be the star in the spotlight, it’s worth looking at the entire content adaptation show to see how to best serve an audience’s information needs.
To learn more about data visualization, consider taking the free course, Data Visualization: An Introduction, on the Global Health eLearning Center. To learn more about how to make informed decisions in the content adaptation process, review K4Health’s newly published guide.