Healthcare Stories (and Data) for America

July 22nd, 2009 by Mimi Yin

Healthcare For Everyone: An online data collection forum.

As part of our work, we’re experimenting with ways to motivate people to donate data about themselves, either to further a cause they believe in or simply to better understand their situation relative to others. We’ve built a demo site around the issue of healthcare and would love for you to try it out give us some feedback!

Of course, we’re not the first people to have a go at organizing people around healthcare online. The Obama administration’s recently launched Healthcare Stories for America is particularly well-done, with an interactive map and community-driven mechanism for highlighting especially interesting contributions.

Healthcare Stories for America

Still, we wonder if we shouldn’t take it up a level.

Our belief is that to make a compelling case for any issue, especially one as complex and multi-faceted as healthcare, you need both:

  1. Real stories to humanize the problem; and
  2. Hard data to contextualize those stories and provide handles for understanding the size and shape of the problem.

It is no accident that the interactive map is most prominent way to browse “Healthcare Stories for America.” We think there should be even more “data-driven” ways to soak up what people are contributing. Far from being a turn-off, we believe that asking people to give more data can make community forums more compelling and more engaging, provided people understand what they’re giving up, who they’re giving it up to, how it will be used and see an immediate pay-off for themselves.

The basic assumption of the site is simple: Give data. Get more data.

The visualization below is a static example graph of how we imagine more “data-driven” ways to consume and make sense of the kind of information people are sharing on forums like “Healthcare Stories.” See full-sized graph here.

Static Example Visualization

Hard data is also especially important when there is profound disagreement over the nature of a problem. This is the the drama that is playing out in Washington right now over healthcare. Hard-won, at times grudging agreement that reform is necessary counteracted by entrenched disagreement over exactly what the problem is and how it should be addressed.

So please take a look at what we’ve done. Browse around. Contribute your story. Our privacy guarantee is simple. Either you choose to make your information public, or you don’t. If you don’t, we will never release your data except in aggregate form, like this and this.

Let us know, what’s compelling to you? What’s not? What would you like to see more of? less of? What questions do you have about how the site works? Feel free to post your comments and questions here or email us directly at info [at] commondataproject [dot] org.


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