What's New in City Design

Community Health Dashboards

Community Health dashboards depict various measures and trends related to residents' health, education & welfare.

Benefits & Problems Addressed

Accountability: Dashboards publicly display performance metrics to show how well (or poorly) programs address basic health, education and needs. Program managers can redesign programs based on data to better serve constituents.

Open data: Researchers & others can use the data displayed in their own work, or recombine information to communicate information.

Tips & Techniques

Getting started: Start with your community's best data sets for a first dashboard. Enlist graphic designers with skills in visualizing and presenting data in the most effective formats.  

Growing a community health dashboard: Determine which community measures are priorities and if needed, bolster data collection related to those priorities. Make sure there is a set goal for each indicator to benchmark progress.

Common indicators: Health (child mortality, obesity, diabetes); Environment (water quality, beach closures); Education (high school graduation rates, % walk to school); Economy (employment rates, underemployment); Transportation (access to bike trails, bike/pedestrian injury, public transit links to job centers)

Potential users: (1) Neighborhood health advocates, (2) Agencies, departments  & companies providing health services, (3) Professors, teachers & students, (4) Journalists, (5) Non-profits working in health-related fields, (6) Grant seekers who need data, (7) Researchers

Design considerations: Given the wide swath of users, simple, easy-to-read graphics are important.  Provide links to the source code and data sets.  Choose graphic depictions (e.g. bar charts, pie charts, maps, animated metrics) based on the information needs such as trends over time, geographic disparities, funding priorities/reallocation. Link to best practices in other cities for ideas on program improvement.

Hot Buttons: Program managers may resist publicly releasing data potentially showing poor performance or outcomes they feel is out of their control. Dashboards are only as good as underlying data sets. 


Philadelphia Community Health Explorer: Philadelphia, PA US

Live Healthy Fairfax: Fairfax County, VA US

Image: City of Philadelphia