(Editor's note: An earlier version of this story was headlined to read that HIV was the number one cause of death in Florida. In fact, as the text below indicates, it is the number one "distinctive" cause of death, a figure reached by comparison via an algorithm. We apologize for any confusion.)
In an unsettling story released today by National Public Radio,
it was revealed that, despite efforts to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS over the past few decades, Florida's number one "distinctive" cause of death is HIV. Francis Boscoe from the New York Cancer Registry made the calculations, and they are, for the most part, fascinating. (See Nevada's "legal intervention" death lead). You can go to the link above to see what facilitates the death of individuals in other states prominently (or look at the chart below). The study was a case of taking a dumb map and making it useful, according to the story. Reports Scott Hensley of NPR:
"To be honest, I was seeing these maps about a year ago," [Boscoe] tells Shots. One he points to is a state-by-state map of distinctive musical artists based on the online listening habits of people across the country. In other words, which artist was listened to far more often in one state than the others.
"I wondered what it would look like if you applied this to something more serious, like mortality data," he says. He took advantage of a standardized list of causes of death — 113 in all — that are used across the country and a national database of the underlying causes of death collected between 2001 to 2010.
Boscoe calculated the mortality rates for all 113 causes of death in each state and compared them with the rates for the same causes nationwide. On the map, each state and Washington, D.C., then got labeled with the local cause that was, essentially, the largest multiple of the corresponding national rate.