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Telling a Story with Data in Tableau

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May 5, 2021

Data can be a powerful tool in decision making, especially when used by those most affected by the public health or social justice issue the data depicts. However, sometimes it is difficult to show an audience significant or relevant findings. Telling a visual story with data is an essential part of research to help an audience make sense of the facts and truly democratize access to that information. Oftentimes research focuses on telling a story with words and numbers, but in today’s visual economy, researchers cannot neglect telling a story with visuals. Data storytelling is the practice of building a complete picture around a set of data and how visualizations help convey the meaning of that data in an easy to understand and compelling way.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in Philadelphia is one such story. In the past year, the Drexel West Philly Promise Neighborhood research team built data dashboards to help identify areas in Philadelphia that are at highest risk for COVID-19 and its longer-term impacts. The COVID-19 Vulnerability Indicators Dashboard is an interactive online data tool, created in Tableau, designed to inform COVID-19 response and recovery efforts in the hardest hit neighborhoods in Philadelphia. The dashboard displays neighborhood-level indicators prior to the COVID-19 pandemic to demonstrate communities’ vulnerability to the immediate and longer-term effects off the crisis. The indicators are displayed at the census tract level to help local officials identify neighborhoods or sections of neighborhoods that will need targeted support in preparing for or recovering from the crisis.

This dashboard provides just one example of how important data storytelling is to translating research into action. The Urban Health Collaborative understands the demand for this skill in the workforce and is offering an online short course, “Data Storytelling in Tableau: How to Convert Analytics into Insights,” as one of eleven course in the 2021 Urban Health Summer Institute. This course will provide hands-on skills on how to transform a raw dataset into a compelling interactive data dashboard that will guide an audience to see the insights within. Katherine Verstreate, MPH, data project manager at the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute is the instructor for the course. She has several years of experience using data to tell a story in Tableau and leads a Tableau User Group at Drexel University. Learn more about this course and others on our website.