Big Data Crushes Anti-Vaccination Movement

Published January 23, 2014   |   
Dan Munro

For years it’s been relatively easy to ignite medical controversy with emotional (but often anecdotal) evidence. TV is a popular format for doing just that. It’s quick, colorful and dramatic (and increasingly in high-def and big-screen). Add a well known celebrity (or two) and the effects can be powerful, long term and hard to refute.

Much of that power, however, is changing and will continue to change with large datasets that are freely available online – or soon will be. When we talk about the science of “Big Data” as a new discipline, it’s often the datasets that we’re referencing – and the visualization of those datasets can be equally powerful and dramatic. As a single example, I wrote about the release of one such dataset on hospital pricing released last year by the Government (here).

On Monday, Aaron Carroll (over at the Incidental Economist here) highlighted another chart that was based on a dataset recently published by the Council On Foreign Relations. The chart shows ”vaccine preventable outbreaks” around the world from 2006 to present day.

The original chart is online here and is interactive by year, outbreak type, location and number of people. The data covers outbreaks for Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Polio, “other” – and is also available as a downloadable CSV file (for use with most spreadsheet applications – here). The CSV data also includes source citation, country, longitude/latitude, number of cases and fatalities by outbreak type.

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