Discrimination Is Breaking People’s Hearts by Scientific American

“Discrimination Is Breaking People’s Hearts” was part of a special package of articles highlighting problems and solutions in health equity. The Scientific American editorial team quickly identified cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death in the U.S. and globally, as an essential topic to cover. Editor Lauren Gravitz engaged science journalist Jyoti Madhusoodanan to write a feature article on the subject.

Narratives around heart disease and its uneven impact across different demographic groups often tend to emphasize individual choices (such as diet and exercise). With this piece, we aimed to shift the focus to systemic factors, especially the role of discrimination. The central character in the story, ShantaQuilette Carter-Williams, is a Black woman whose health issues and interactions with the U.S. medical system illustrate a crisis in health equity that is largely rooted in racism and sexism. Photo editor Monica Bradley hired photographer Gioncarlo Valentine to capture still images and video of Carter-Williams and her family to lend a sense of humanity and emotional potency to the story.

We chose to complement Carter-Williams’ story with data capturing larger scale trends and patterns—both within the U.S., and internationally. Graphics editor Jen Christiansen commissioned researcher Miriam Quick to dig into the latest science and data on cardiovascular disease, from basic information such as what types of disease the term encompasses to more granular details like the prevalence of specific heart attack symptoms among men and women. Miriam met periodically with the editorial team to share her research and make recommendations on how to present the data. After Miriam delivered her final research packet, graphics editor Amanda Montañez developed a series of data visualizations to be interspersed throughout the text. Each set of visualizations focuses on a key aspect of the story, as indicated with a topic heading and introductory statement.

Finally, online art director Ryan Reid assembled all the pieces of the story into an elegantly designed presentation using Shorthand. This tool allowed us to give the story’s visual elements plenty of space while using the scrollytelling format to walk readers through the various data points and their significance.

With thoughtful contributions from each member of this team, we aimed to make an important, information-dense, and emotionally heavy topic engaging and accessible to a wide audience.

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