For the first #IronQuest of 2020 I joined forces with Lindsay Betzendahl and together we presented a #ProjectHealthViz and #IronQuest collaboration!

After the success of the #SportsVizSunday collaboration last year, I was keen to team up with another community project. Not only does this give you another fantastic opportunity to practice and refine your Tableau skills, it also introduces both projects to new audiences too. Furthermore, if you regularly enter both projects, it means you can focus your time on a single viz!

Healthcare in Prisons

This months’ topic was “Healthcare in Prisons”. While Lindsay provided an optional dataset on mental health in US prisons, participants were free to source their own data too.

We received a total of 31 submissions for this round making it the second most popular topic so far! What’s more, an incredible 55% of entrants were first-time #IronQuest participants! It’s always great to see new people getting involved in projects like #IronQuest and the Tableau Community. Welcome and thank you to everyone for finding the project and joining us.

I will be the first to admit that this was not an easy topic to approach. I personally found myself overwhelmed with all the data available to me, as well as the distressing nature of the subject matter (you can read about my viz process here). However, participants were creative with the theme and we witnessed a multitude of topics covered amongst the submissions. The creativity amongst the entries never ceases to amaze me. While the majority of entries focused on mental health or general healthcare prospects for prison or jail inmates, we also saw vizzes on overcrowding, women (including pregnant women or the impact on children when a parent is incarcerated) and well as the treatment of minority groups.

This month I had the pleasure of teaming up with Lindsay Betzendahl and together we provided feedback to those who requested it. We spent over two hours reviewing 25 vizzes in depth and enjoyed sharing our thoughts and feedback on the submissions. You can listen to our feedback conversation here. Note: we reviewed the vizzes in alphabetical order by the author’s first name.

Lindsay provided some excellent insights into her design process and approach to storytelling during the call that you won’t want to miss! I would encourage you to watch the video, even if you didn’t submit a viz as there’s plenty of great takeaways and lots to learn.

Feedback Themes

Whilst reviewing the vizzes together, Lindsay and I noticed a few reoccurring themes. I hope you find these insights useful.

Theme 1: Standardisation

Many of the vizzes we looked at standardised the data to summarise the rate of events or prisoner population numbers. This technique is particularly effective when analysing health data or any data which relates to numbers of people or number of events. Often, counts of events, such as deaths, births, or the number of prisoners have very little meaning in themselves and lack a context in which they can be interpreted effectively. Calculating rates, for example the number of occurrences per 1,000 people, provides context and makes comparisons between demographic groups, countries and years far more insightful.

Here is an example of this technique in practice by Brian Moore. In this part of his viz, Brian compared the number of staff, per prisoner, by country:

Brian Moore Example
Example by Brian Moore

For example, if we look at the dentist bar chart we can see the tallest bar represents Slovenia where there are 10 prison dentists . This equates to 1 dentist per 139 prisoners. However, on the left we see Lithuania which has 15 dentists but only 1 dentist per 454 prisoners so is represented with a much shorter bar. If we simply compared 10 to 15, our interpretation of these numbers would be completely different. It is this added context which helps us to gain better insight from the data.


Theme 2: Grounding Bar Charts

When we’re building more creative vizzes (as opposed to traditional dashboards), it can be tempting to remove all lines, labels and gridlines to avoid any unnecessary clutter. However, at times it can be easy to go far and remove too much.

Some of the vizzes we saw this month featured bar charts which had all of their axis removed. Often this results is an almost floating-style effect (particularly in the absence of an x-axis) and can make it harder to read the chart, especially if the axis labels are removed too.

I’m a fan of bar charts which feature a strong x-axis line to help ‘ground’ the bars. You’ll see this technique applied in many of Ryan Sleeper’s charts. Not only are his charts easy to read, but the design is clear and crisp:

Ryan Sleeper
Bar Chart Example by Ryan Sleeper Link to Post


Theme 3: Annotations

When building a data viz, it’s important we make it as clear and easy to understand as possible. Often we’ll present charts where something interesting is happening; perhaps a dramatic increase or decline in a metric over time. However, without additional context it can be hard for the audience to understand what is going on. Furthermore, it might take our audience a while to notice such trends where the movement is less dramatic. As authors, it’s our job to help our audience to gain the insights they need easily. One way we can do this is through the use of annotations.

By using annotations we can guide our audience and provide additional context to any interesting data points. Take this chart by Ingrid Arreola as an example:


Ingrid Annotations Example
Example of annotations by Ingrid Arreola


Here, Ingrid uses annotations to help tell the story behind the numbers by highlighting keep points in history. Her annotations add additional context that we might not already be aware of and help us to understand the chart better.



The Submissions

THANK YOU to everyone who submitted entries for taking the time to create and share your work! Also, a big thank you to Lindsay for being a fantastic co-host.

All of the entries are posted below in alphabetical order by first name. If you tweeted your viz or thought you submitted one via the Google Form but don’t see it here, let me know and I’ll work to include any additional entries ASAP.

Please click on the links provided to view the visualizations on Tableau Public (or similar). Show your support for the participants by favouriting the vizzes you like the most.

Note: Some of the long-form vizzes have been split into seperate sections to help display them on the page.




From left to right:

Amandeep Saluja | HIV in US Prisons

Amy Wu | Babies in Prison




Ann Cutrell | Women Care Behind Bars –  A Shared Sentence

Anna Dzikowska | Invisible



Arti Rajput – Healthcare in Captivity

Christian Felix – Pills Aren’t Enough



Brian Moore – The Forgotten



Clélia Boursin Bellot – Prison Healthcare in the EU

Daniel Ling – Irish Prison Overcrowding



Dilyana Bossenz – Indicators of Mental Health Problems 

Ginny Moench – Medical Experiments on Prisoners and Patients



Frederic Fery – Stuck

Frederic Fery & Fred Najjar – Locked-Up Down Under



Ingrid Arreola – Medical Co-Pays in Prison

Johanne Lemaire – Tough Love



Jagruthi Mothukuri – Mental Health in Prisons

Jian Wang – Mental Health in Prisons and Jails



Kate Schaub – Our Eroded Mental Health Care System



Lindsay Betzendahl – One Data Point

Luigi Cicciari – Mental Health in US Prisons

Mariana Silivestru – Health Data in Prison and Jail



Mateusz Karmalski – Overcrowding in Prisons

Meera Umasankar – Health Morbidity in Brazilian Prisons



Michelle Frayman – Jail Not Care

Mohit Panse – 2011-2012 : Mental Health in Jails and Prisons Inmates in USA



Sarah Bartlett – Dying on the Inside



Simon Rowe – Healthcare in Prison

Swati Dave – Women Healthcare in Prison



Tausif Kazi – Mental Health Problems in US Prisoners



Riddhi Thakkar – Mental Health in U.S. Prison

Tyler Cross – Foodborne Disease Outbreaks at U.S. Correctional Institutions



The next round of Iron Quest will be announced very soon!

Follow the hashtag #IronQuest on Twitter and LinkedIn and check out the Iron Quest section on my blog for more info.

Thanks for reading.