• Son Luu

Visualize NYC Leading Death Cause Data

Updated: Dec 28, 2019

Class: Making Data Tangible

Instructor: John Kuiphoff

Today, more and more people are conscious of health . This has reflected on changing trends of leading death causes related to heath issues. I found some interesting data specific to NYC on NYC Open Data - a website that provides the public with different areas of insightful data about the city, such as: health, environment, education, and business.

The Raw Data

The raw data coming out of NYC Open Data was not as straightforward as anticipated. Some dimensions were easier to interpret than others.

Data Cleansing

I cleaned up the data a little bit to make it more understandable, and so that I could decide what part of the data I wanted to use, and eliminated the rest.

Data Visualization with Tableau

I used Tableau to explore different forms of visualization for the provided data, hoping for inspirations for visualization in physical forms.

There were more, but I came across the below graphic form of the data that gave me an idea for building a physical form of data visualization, using similar shapes as shown below.

This is a zoomed-in version of the shapes. As you can imagine, these could be cut out in thick paper and stack on top of each other to create a block of physical visualization of the data. I sketched some ideas and started the making process.

I picked out 6 major leading death causes that showed interesting trend changes over 10 year period, for this project. I could have made more than 6, but given the time and budget, I decided to go with 6.

I exported 6 visual shapes (6 major death causes) from Tableau into Adobe Illustrator in vectorized shapes .

Unfortunately, Tableau exporting capability is not designed to work efficiently with Illustrator, it took me a long time to clean up those shapes and layers. After hours of work in Illustrator, I finally was able to start preparing files for laser cutting.

I printed 4 copies of each of the shapes on a 75w laser cutter, with a plan to glue these layers together to increase the thickness of each block that represented each death cause data.

After printing out all the pieces, I glued copies of the same shapes together to create more of a 3D physical block of each shape, as seen here:

The Base

Next, I printed the base for the physical object. I decided to create 2 levels of base to create more elevation, made of card-board. The material was easy for laser cutting, light-weight and was all re-used scrap material that I found.

Below is the design of the base with 2 dimensions: time period at the bottom, and death causes on the side. Measuring all sizes and shapes was crucial. I test-printed 3 different sizes and chose one size that would fit all the other paper shapes as shown down below. Similar to the paper block shapes, I also printed several layers of cardboard and glued them together.

In the middle of the base is a pocket that is 3 inches deep. This pocket will be holding the paper blocks and keeping them in place.

Here is how all the other blocks fit inside the base...

The Final Product

NYC Leading Death Causes (2007-2016)

1. Heart Diseases: leading death cause, not only in NY, but across the nation. Although it has been consecutively the leading cause (in terms of number of deaths), it has also been trending down. There were 21,441 people in NY dies of heart disease in 2007. Until 2016, this number is 17,159, a 20% decrease.

One of the reasons could be the fact that people have been more informed and better educated about adopting a healthful diet and getting regular exercise to reduce heart disease risk.

Being able to recognize the symptoms of a heart attack can also help people get prompt medical treatment and potentially save their lives.

2. Cancer: report showed, for most cancers, the risk increases with age. Some people have a higher or lower risk due to differences in exposure to carcinogens, such as from smoking or exposure to chemical pollutants. Genetic factors, race, sex also play a strong role in cancer's development. The number of deaths in NYC due to cancer in 2007 is 13,249, and 13,520 in 2016. The trend has not changed much over the last 10 years.

3. Flu and Pneumonia:

Almost everyone will have experienced flu - highly contagious viral infection. It is one of the most severe illnesses of the winter season. In 2007, 2236 people died of flu and pneumonia, and 2012 people died of same in 2016. The trend has gone down by about 18% within the last 3-4 years. People, especially children are frequently reminded to take flus shots every year during flu season.

4. Diabetes: a condition wherein the body can no longer control blood glucose, which leads to dangerously high levels of blood glucose. The number of deaths caused by diabetes over the 10-year period has stayed the same for the most part.

5. Alzheimer: Dementia refers to a group of conditions that cause a decline in cognitive function. This affects a person's ability to perform everyday activities. Damage to the nerve cells in the brain causes dementia. As a result of the damage, neurons can no longer function normally and may die. This is the one leading death cause that has been trending up over the last 10 years, an 86% increase in the number of deaths in NYC. It is also dangerous because it is the one cause that cannot be cured, prevented, or slowed down.

6 HIV: has also been trending down in NYC. Since I moved to NY, I've noticed the communication to promote HIV prevention and having a healthy sex life is very strong and deep in different communities, especially the LGBTQA groups.