Framing Addiction

With the opioid crisis affecting so many communities, my news and social media feeds have been increasingly populated with messaging about addiction from advocates and experts. In hopes of dispelling the dominant frames in public thinking about people with addiction as having made “bad choices,” and having insufficient “will” to recover, I see repeated assertions that “addiction is a disease.”

While true, many non-experts do not fully believe that addiction is a disease. So we must do more to explain the process of disease if we are to hope to change public understanding. Expanding the assertion by saying, e.g., that ‘addiction is a disease that involves altered functioning of the brain’s reward and motivation systems’¹ can be a huge help.

But of course, that’s not the whole story. So I’d like to point you to fabulous resources from The Alberta Family Wellness Initiative. They have put significant efforts into health promotion and disease prevention based on the neurobiology of addiction. They have been collaborating with The Frameworks Institute for many years on effective science translation messaging, as well. It’s really a terrific one-stop shop for both the science, and its translation to the public.

Hope this is helpful!


¹ See: Different Kinds of Addiction

No More PIE!

Charts, that is. Blueberry? Keep at it.

I have been doing away with pie charts in client materials for some time. This morning, I stumbled on the most excellent explanation of why, from Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic in her most terrific new book, “Storytelling with Data.”  She’s written quite a bit on this, and even given a talk called Death to Pie Charts. A woman after my own heart, for sure!

The main reason I find the pie chart an ineffective communication tool is that it takes too much cognitive work for people to assign a quantity to an area.  I do understand that pie charts CAN be useful in giving a quick sense of “percent of a whole,” so I’m not calling for their total eradication.

But many of my clients use them like  this:

YIKES! Right?  And doesn’t the red 28% look bigger than the blue 28%? As Cole explains in her book, things closer tend to look bigger.  AND, using 3D can make things even worse for a pie chart’s interpretability. 3D charts throw in even more angles and dimensions for our eyes to sort through.

And don’t go running out for donuts to solve this problem. Cole shows why the donut chart is similarly troubled.  In short, Why ask your readers to interpret angles and areas when a simple horizontal bar chart would suffice? 

Do purchase her book, but before it arrives, check out this blog post she wrote on Alternatives to Pie Charts.  It’s incredibly helpful, and I think you’ll be convinced!


Framing poverty in social media

Last week I had the pleasure of speaking at the Kansas Conference on Poverty, and promised participants that I would write a blog post about how best to frame social media posts about poverty. I have created an infographic of framing best-practices – because infographics are way more interesting than blog posts, am I right?


Framing Poverty Revised