The SanaViz: Human Centered Geovisualization to facilitate visual exploration of Public Health data

Author: Ashish Joshi, M.D., M.P.H. (2012) 

Primary Advisor: Jack W. Smith, M.D., PhD

Committee Members: Chiehwen Ed Hsu, PhD, Jiajie Zhang, PhD, Robert Vogler, DSN, MEd, M. Sriram Iyengar, PhD, Craig Johnson, PhD

PhD Thesis, The University of Texas School of Biomedical Informatics at Houston.


Public health data is typically organized by geospatial units. Routine geographic monitoring of health data enables an understanding of the spatial patterns of events in terms of causes and controls. GeoVisualization (GeoVis) allows users to see hidden information both visually and explicitly on a map. Despite the applicability of GeoVis in public health, it is still underused for visualizing public health data. The objective of this study is to examine the perception of telehealth users’ to utilize GeoVis as a proof of concept to facilitate visual exploration of telehealth data in Brazil using principles of human centered approach and cognitive fit theory. A mixed methods approach was utilized in this cross sectional study conducted at the Telehealth Center of the Federal University of Pernambuco (NUTE-UFPE), Recife, Brazil. A convenient sample of 20 telehealth participants was drawn during a period of Sep-Oct 2011. Data was gathered using previously tested questionnaire surveys and in-person interviews. Sociodemographic Information and prior familiarity with the use of computer and GeoVis was gathered. Other information gathered included participants’ prior spatial analysis skills, level of motivation and use of GeoVis in telehealth. Interviews were recorded both in English and Portuguese. Transcription of the audio content to English was done by a certified translator. Univariate analysis was performed for the continuous and categorical variables. For the open-ended questions, we utilized a grounded theory to identify themes and their relationship as they emerge from the data. Analysis of the quantitative data was performed using SAS V9.1 and qualitative data was performed using NVivo9. The average age of participants was 28 years (SD=7) and a majority of them were females. The users had diverse roles and backgrounds and were most familiar with Google maps. Despite having minimal spatial skills, there was a strong motivation and relevance among the telehealth users to use GeoVis to facilitate visual exploration of telehealth data. Results showed users’ preference for analyzing both spatial and temporal dimensions of the data. Maps were the first choice to represent the data as it will be able to display the events both in place and time. Understanding of users’ needs is essential to ensure that the technology is appropriately functional and will be useful to complete the tasks.