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Stacy Carruth on using Wordle to Understand Substance Abuse

My name is Stacy Carruth and I am a Community Health Specialist at a Regional Center for Healthy Communities in Massachusetts.  Much of the work we do is supporting community coalitions working on substance abuse prevention.  Two communities we work with are funded to reduce fatal and non-fatal opiate overdose, an issue of concern in the Northeast.  In one of these communities, we used Wordle to look at how people in the community were talking about overdose. I will be describing how we did this.

In their work to reduce opiate overdoses, the coalition conducted a comprehensive community assessment, which included many stakeholder interviews.  The stakeholders were asked:  What does overdose look like in your community? What’s being done and what’s working? What would help or harm the work (overdose prevention)? The coalition was interested in different ways to present this information to a larger, more diverse audience in a visually engaging way.

Rad Resource: I had recently learned about Wordle at the AEA/CDC Summer Evaluation Institute, and so I created a Wordle document with stakeholder interview transcripts as an example for the coalition staff.  Wordle allows you to create word clouds out of text. The more frequently a word is used in the text, the more prominent it is in the word cloud.  This creates a visual representation of the information that is easy to share with others.

Some of the words that were prominent in the Wordle document that we created were:  Need, Women, Public, Person, Detox, Overdose, Drugs.  It was a powerful way to visualize the thoughts of community members.

While using Wordle, I wondered whether it could make data more easily accessible for those with low literacy levels.  Wordle has the potential to engage members of the community that might otherwise not be engaged.

Hot Tip:  Wordle is very user friendly.  You literally copy and paste your text into a box.  You can change the orientation of the text, and the color scheme quickly and easily.  If there is a term that appears in the Wordle document that you want to delete (for example, in our document, the word “mentioned” was prominent, but it did not add to understanding the issue) you simply put your cursor on the word and right click and then you can delete the term. Wordle is an accessible way to share data and engage the community in your work.

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4 thoughts on “Stacy Carruth on using Wordle to Understand Substance Abuse”

  1. Hello,
    My name is Kelly and I am currently a student at Texas A&M University-Central Texas. I have never heard about Wordle and after reading your post, I was very intrigued. I clicked on the link and tried it out. It is a great way to get members of our community to better engage. I will definitely be utilizing this in the near future.
    Thank you,

  2. I find it amazing how this wordle works. Based on the description, easy to create, display and use. I’m glad that new things are being created to be used in positive researches for communities well being.

  3. Excellent article Stacy Carruth. As a college student I will definitely be using wordle in the near future. It is amazing how many new social sites are popping up that allows a person to not only be creative but also get their message out there. This one definitely seems like a winner according to your post as well.

    Thank you
    Chris Gardner

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