Undark's Special Project: Breathtaking

The Weight of Numbers: Air Pollution and PM2.5

Emanating from smokestacks, vehicle engines, construction projects, and fires large and small, airborne pollution – sometimes smaller than the width of a human hair, and very often the product of human activity – is not just contributing to climate change. It is a leading driver of heart disease and stroke, lung cancer, and respiratory infections the world over. Exposure to such pollution, the most deadly of which scientists call PM2.5, is the sixth highest risk factor for death around the world, claiming more than 4 million lives annually, according to recent global morbidity data.

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STAT investigation of clinical trials reporting

Clinical trial reporting violations, 2008-2017

Nearly 18,700 clinical trials were examined. Their results — based on publicly available data — should have been posted to ClinicalTrials.gov between 2008 and Sept. 11, 2017. The investigation follows a similar report by STAT two years ago, which found that prestigious medical research institutions were among the most flagrant violators of the reporting law. Unreported research data can compromise the safety of human research and slow the pace of innovation, and the increase coincided with sustained attention to the problem by advocates for transparency in science, the media — and even then-Vice President Joe Biden.

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16 years of overdose deaths in the US

Explore what’s driving surging overdose deaths

The latest evidence showing the broad reach of the drug overdose epidemic in the United States. From 1999 to 2015, over half a million Americans died from overdoses of legal or illegal drugs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number of annual deaths from narcotics and hallucinogens increased threefold during that period, from 11,081 to 37,269. Deaths resulting from opioid overdoses increased fivefold since 1999, jumping by 16 percent in 2015 alone.

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200 Years of Immigration to the U.S.

People obtaining lawful permanent resident status by region or selected country of last residence: 1820 - 2015

Immigration to the US has been limited by many factors, including laws such as the the Immigration Act of 1924 that completely excluded immigrants from Asia and severely limited the number of immigrants of other nationalities.

200 Years of Immigration to the U.S. was featured in the Best American Infographics 2016 anthology and has appeared in German and American school textbooks and in many publications such as Forbes, Vox, The Washington Post, STAT, etc.

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Rural Hospital Closures: 2005 – 2016

Explore the locations and sizes of rural hospital closures over the last decade.

Rural hospitals around the country have struggled to stay afloat; at least 80 have shut down since 2010. Thirteen of those closures occurred in Texas, the most of any state, according to the data from the North Carolina Rural Health Research Program.

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How many young doctors does your state retain after residency?

Explore where doctors settle compared to where they do their residency or fellowship

For each state, the data cover all physicians who completed their residency and in some cases fellowship training there. Hover over the colored wedge representing each state and you'll see lines of the same color radiating out to the top 10 destinations for physicians who completed their residencies or fellowships in that state. The remaining lines (rendered in many colors) show the inflow, indicating where the state was able to attract residents and fellows from.

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EXPLORE: How Yemen’s cholera outbreak spread to a half-million people

Yemen cholera outbreak 2017, by governorate

The numbers are mind-boggling: Over the four months, half a million people are suspected of having contracted cholera in Yemen and 2,000 have died from the diarrheal disease.

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The places in America where seniors are most — and least — likely to take their blood pressure meds

Explore medication nonadherence by county

A study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at 18.5 million seniors taking medication for high blood pressure. The stakes here are high: When patients don’t take these drugs as directed, they’re at elevated risk of having a stroke or heart attack, being hospitalized, and dying early.

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The estimated value of medical specialties compared to other occupations

How much do doctors really make? Compare your salary to various specialties

Physicians-to-be, practicing physicians, and many of their patients take great interest in how much money doctors make. Physician compensation surveys can offer some eye-popping numbers — orthopedic surgeons make more than $450,000 a year! — but they are often highly misleading. A key shortcoming is that surveys neglect what’s called opportunity cost, which is the amount of money lost from choosing the next best alternative.

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Female doctors earn less than men, even within the same specialty

Explore physicians' annual compensation versus gender wage gap by specialty

No matter where they live or what they specialize in, female doctors in the US earn significantly less than male doctors, a new survey shows. The wage gap for medical specialities is highest for vascular surgeons, occupational medicine, gastroenterology, and both pediatric endocrinology and rheumatology.

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A state-by-state breakdown of the striking gender gap in doctors’ pay

Explore physicians' annual compensation versus gender wage gap by state

If you’re a doctor in Charlotte, N.C., you’re ideally situated to benefit from the highest pay in the health care business. There’s just one catch: If you want that big money, you can’t be a woman. That’s because the city also has the biggest gender wage gap in the nation. Female physicians in Charlotte make an average of 33 percent less than their male counterparts, a difference of $125,000 per year, according to a new report by the social media site Doximity.

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We are living longer than ever

Watch the world's population age

Longevity is one of the greatest achievements of our modern era — the United Nations calls it one of the most significant social transformations of the 21st century. Worldwide, 901 million people are over the age of 60 today. That number is projected to reach 1.4 billion by 2030 and nearly 2.1 billion by 2050. But the success story of longer lives is a worthless prize if the quality of those lives is compromised because of poor health and a loss of autonomy. To ensure that people of all ages, but particularly older people, can do what they value, national health care systems must be able to respond to those with age-related chronic conditions such as type II diabetes to ensure timely access to education, screening, and appropriate treatment.

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Vaccine exemptions are on the rise in a number of US states

Nonmedical Vaccine Exemptions in Kindergarten Students, 2009-2016

On the whole, fewer US families have opted out of school-required immunizations in recent years, thanks in part to stricter state laws. But data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that, while nonmedical exemptions (which includes religious and philosophical opposition) are on the decline nationally, they’re rising in certain states, including states that haven’t previously been considered hotbeds of anti-vaccination sentiment — which may put those areas at risk of a disease outbreak.

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Illicit drugs prices and purity

Explore how illegal drugs have become cheaper and more potent over time

These markets are largely hidden from public view, making them difficult to analyze. Even so, data about drug prices and purity offer interesting glimpses into how they work. A key source of these data is the Drug Enforcement Administration’s System to Retrieve Information from Drug Evidence (STRIDE) database. It collects information on drugs sent to be analyzed by the DEA’s labs after being confiscated by national, state, and local law enforcement agencies or bought by undercover agents. Although the database has its limitations, and the confidence intervals around the data points are wide, STRIDE still offers decent estimates of the average market price and purity of various drugs. Each of the lines in the data visualization below tells its own story. We highlight a few of them.

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Higher, faster, farther: doping at the Summer Olympics

Doping at the Summer Olympic Games by country, drug, sport and year

Testosterone and synthetic anabolic steroids, ephedrine, furosamine, human growth hormone, insulin-like growth factor, EPO, methylhexanamine … if science could make it, athletes would use it.

Munich (1972) was the speed (amphetamines) Olympics; Montreal (1976) was a movable feast of anabolic steroids. There was not a single positive drug test at Moscow (1980) — because testers hadn’t figured out how to detect the cornucopia of lab-made steroids athletes were taking, and those Olympics came to be called the Chemists’ Games. Doping has become an arms race between cheaters and Olympic officials (in the form of the World Anti-Doping Agency, established by the IOC in 1999).

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E-cigarettes are used by teens who wouldn’t otherwise smoke, study finds

STAT-Harvard Poll on E-Cigarettes

University of Southern California researchers tracked tobacco use among five groups of high-schoolers who graduated in 1995, 1998, 2001, 2004, and 2014. The number of high school seniors who’d smoked in the past month fell from 19 percent in 1995 to 9 percent in 2004. That number has fallen to about 8 percent now. But the group of nearly 5,500 graduates from 2014 were unique — they were the first cohort who also had e-cigarettes at their disposal. When the question was expanded to ask whether the students smoked or vaped, 14 percent said they had. That suggests some e-cigarette users are teens who otherwise wouldn’t have smoked, the study’s authors said.

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The yearly explosion in fireworks injuries

Explore: See how fireworks injuries skyrocket on July 4th

It's almost as predictable as barbecues in the summer — the July fireworks injury. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission has tracked emergency room reports from a sample of about 100 hospitals around the country for nearly two decades. Every year, Independence Day brings star-spangled skies and a flurry of hospital visits.

But it’s not solely an Independence Day phenomenon. Federal researchers track data on those injuries year-round. Children are much more likely than adults to get hurt.

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Global Differences in Cancer Drug Prices

Cancer drugs, though cheaper in the developing world, remain unaffordable in poorer countries

Cancer patients in the United States may envy the low prices that people in, say, India pay for chemotherapy and other cancer drugs. But in fact, prices are less affordable in low- and middle-income countries, new research shows.

Explore the affordability of brand-name and generic cancer drugs in seven countries with this data visualization. We've compared the drug prices to an economics metric known as GDP PPP per capita per month, which stands in for an average individual's purchasing power.

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Follow the Zika virus through time and space

Tracking Zika virus, country by country

It might seem like the Zika virus exploded out of nowhere in Brazil a few months ago, but the virus has been all over the world since it was discovered in Uganda in 1947. Use the button to manually navigate the globe through the years, or drag your cursor to rotate it, and click on countries to discover the distribution of the Zika virus infection and associated neurological disorders across time and geographies, starting in 1947.

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NFL concussions and head injuries by year and by team

NFL injury report visualized

In recent years the NFL has implemented new rules to reduce concussions among players. But with two weeks to go in the 2015 regular season, players have already suffered more concussions than in either of the previous two seasons. Here are the recent statistics, by team.

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CRISPR studies by year and country

The global spread of CRISPR research publications

The global spread of CRISPR research publications since the method was discovered. Drag timeline handles to filter CRISPR studies by year, and hover or click the circles to see publication details. To learn what CRISPR is and how it works see the explanation by Feng Zhang whose work has played a central role in the development of CRISPR technologies.

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