Florence Nightingale’s dream

Florence Nightingale was passionate about collecting and visualising health statistics – not just her famous wartime visualisation (below), but also national health statistics. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington has realised this dream with a visualisation tool showing the impact of injury and disease globally (see also the report in Wired).

The image above shows Years of Life Lost (a statistic giving greater weight to deaths among the young) for women aged 15–49 in the USA. Colours mark injuries (greens), infectious diseases (reds), and other diseases, such as cancers (blues). Darker colours highlight growing problems. On the right, we can see the large (but shrinking) problem of death by 4-wheel vehicle accident, and the growing problem of death by poisoning. In the USA, 42,917 people died from poisoning in 2010 (almost double the figure of 22,242 for 2001). Most of these (77.0%) were unintentional, the result of ingesting drugs (pain relievers, sedatives, heart medication, etc.) or cleaning substances. But, as Florence Nightingale understood, if you can see the problem, you can deal with the problem.