Understanding Health through Google Searches

Searching for Health

Overview

Google News Lab helps journalists and researchers use Google search data for data-driven storytelling. Schema collaborated with Google News Lab and Alberto Cairo to create “Searching for Health”, a visualization that tracks the top searches for common health issues in the United States, from Cancer to Diabetes, and compares them with the actual location of occurrences for those same health conditions. By using data from both Google Trends API and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the visualization allows the reader to find potential geographic relationships between those who search and the actual prevalence of health conditions across the country.

Tracking health in the US via Google searches
Desktop View
The timeline allows filtering the heatmap by a specific year

Process

Our collaboration started by thinking about how we might address the issue of healthcare through the lens of Google search data. Initially we proposed a comparison between search interest around health issues, and who would benefit (or not) from the American Health Care Act, using data provided by the Kaiser Foundation. After pursuing that direction for a tumultuous few months in mid-2017, we decided to pivot and instead focus on health condition occurrences, ultimately a more insightful and meaningful comparison given the constantly changing focus of the AHCA. With this new focus, we hand-selected data on the top health conditions in the US from the CDC’s Community Health Status Indicators, a comprehensive dataset containing key health indicators for each of the 3,141 United States counties.

Tablet View
Mobile View

Outcome

Since the change of leadership in the White House in 2017, health has been a hot button political issue, as well as a trending topic, with more people searching about health issues than ever before. Are people who search more for health issues healthier than those who don’t? “Searching for Health” aims to represent the relationship between awareness of health risks, and actually being healthier. Viewers can use the website to gain insight on the level of interest of the the top searches for health conditions in the US and the magnitude of those affected by them. The data is updated regularly to showcase ongoing search activity. Explore the visualization.

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