I just got back from the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene annual meeting where I presented prior research on mapping insecticide-treated bednets and community coverage in western Kenya. To show where bednets are really needed in Kenya and globally, I created a quick visualization to of the global malaria burden around the world.

Mapping like this should be a component of all research reports and in any public dissemination of results and data as it quickly and accurately communicates findings. It was good to see the wide variety of data visualizations utilized by scientists and practitioners at ASTMH to report their latest findings and evaluations of programs. The temperature and precipitation maps released last week by the World Bank have shown that data visualization can be highly interactive, graphically appealing, and extremely fast (and if you make maps read AJ’s great post on design decisions). Reporting research models, results, or evaluations using new data visualizations can generate new ways of thinking and can broaden the reach of the report.

In the malaria map I made, I took an open data set - made publicly available by the Malaria Atlas Project - used PostGIS to categorize the data into four scale groups, and created a custom style using TileMill, our open-source map design studio. In addition to designing the map in TileMill, the interactive and embed functions are provided by MapBox Hosting.

A global map like this gives users the ability zoom in - and then grab it and embed it elsewhere - on regional views like the one above, but still have the capability to zoom out and see a global extent.

To give TileMill a try for making maps like this, you can download it for free here, and find support and documentation on how to use it at MapBox.com.