visualize | communicate | ENGAGE
The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) is the principal source of official statistics and social research on Northern Ireland’s population and socio-economic conditions. NISRA has developed an information service (Northern Ireland Neighbourhood Information Service) www.ninis.nisra.gov.uk to provide access to statistical and locational information relating to small areas across Northern Ireland. Information is available across a range of themes including population, social and welfare, agriculture & education.
We spoke to Cathryn McBurney at NISRA to find out how it is using data presentation to get information to the right people in a format that is easy to interpret. Cathryn explains that part of NINIS is dedicated to the ten-year 'Investing for Health' strategy which started in 2002. Initially health and well-being indicators were collected and presented mostly within spreadsheets and area profile fact sheets. However, with a wide range of users, and with the increase in the number of years collected for each dataset, it was felt that a new approach should be used and NISRA decided to use InstantAtlas to create a series of interactive maps around each theme.
“Investing for Health is about improving health and reducing inequalities – it is a framework with two major goals and seven objectives covering the broad determinants of health, from obvious health indicators such as access to health care, to the effects of crime and poor education.”
“Maps are very helpful because they help to identify inequality gaps so it is possible to find areas that are performing well and those that are performing badly. In addition, using the time trend feature, you can see whether inequality gaps are closing or widening,” says Cathryn.
Meeting the need
Cathryn says user feedback has been very positive. She says: “We go out and train people how to use the website. People who don’t use data every day often want to find a quick message about a certain area and the interactive maps allow people to see changes across a series of indicators for a certain district over a ten year period.”
The user audience includes: policy analysts with the Department of Health; researchers within public health; and a wide range of health professionals.
“We have around 15,000 hits per month and we would like to increase this and help users take the right message from the data by including more elements that use data visualisation. We’ve found that whenever we are giving a presentation using maps is a great way to engage the audience and deliver a message quickly.”
Cathryn says one aspect of the process which is particularly helpful for NISRA is that producing the interactive maps allows them to check the data before it goes live. They are able to spot outliers and ask whether there has been a recording issue or a real change. Cathryn feels this quality assurance feature is very important for NISRA.
For NINIS the future focus will be on trying to get as much data as possible presented using InstantAtlas interactive maps to help users understand and see the power of data.
Other benefits are: