Beyond information access: Support for complex cognitive activities in public health informatics tools

Kamran Sedig, Paul Parsons, Mark Dittmer, OluwaKemi Ola


Public health professionals work with a variety of information sources to carry out their everyday activities. In recent years, interactive computational tools have become deeply embedded in such activities. Unlike the early days of computational tool use, the potential of tools nowadays is not limited to simply providing access to information; rather, they can act as powerful mediators of human-information discourse, enabling rich interaction with public health information. If public health informatics tools are designed and used properly, they can facilitate, enhance, and support the performance of complex cognitive activities that are essential to public health informatics, such as problem solving, forecasting, sense-making, and planning. However, the effective design and evaluation of public health informatics tools requires an understanding of the cognitive and perceptual issues pertaining to how humans work and think with information to perform such activities. This paper draws on research that has examined some of the relevant issues, including interaction design, complex cognition, and visual representations, to offer some human-centered design and evaluation considerations for public health informatics tools.

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Online Journal of Public Health Informatics * ISSN 1947-2579 *