Mapping Obesity in Western Pennsylvania

Design a systems map that visualizes the interconnections and interdependencies related to the obesity epidemic in Western Pennsylvania.

Gary Tang, Emily Wu, Sarah Xi

User Research
Systems Thinking

Spring 2020, 4 weeks

Problem Space
In studying obesity as a wicked problem, the statistics highlight the pressing scale of the issue. A significant portion of adults in Pennsylvania who are diagnosed with obesity not only face severe health issues later in their lives, but also indirectly apply pressure on the American economy, specifically within healthcare expenses.

Project Goals
1.   Explore ways of representing obesity at different systems levels.
2.  Distinguish root causes from consequences to show interconnections among other issues.
3.  Identify leverage points for change within in the system and a broad future resolution for it.

To get a grasp on the scope of our problem, my team started our research by creating a mess map to understand some of the contributing factors through a categorical lens of STEEP (Social, Technological, Economic, Ecologic, Political).

In order to organize our information on a systems level, we created separate charts on Miro to synthesize our findings and categorize them based on relevance to the problem.

In the final stage of our research and development, we mapped out the ideal future that would bridge
potential areas of intervention. We asked ourselves what areas in our problem might create the most change on a systemic level and ideated on some solutions that we could see in our Futures Wheel.


My team then brainstormed ways to organize our information onto our poster. It was important to visualize the extent of the problem without losing comprehensibility, which ultimately led our team to choose a
vertical layout that would emphasize the cause-effect nature of the obesity epidemic.

After my team decided on our rough layout based on the sketches, we then digitally formatted the information to be clearly translated onto our final poster.


As we began to transfer information to our final poster, we highlighted our intervention and leverage points in a clear and communicative manner. Our design choices were focused on distinguishing information based on relevance and readability.

Visual Design Choices



While having population-based interventions can help decrease the scope of obesity, there are unlimited factors to account for when it comes to creating a defined solution. Although obesity is an issue that occurs in overlapping sectors of our society, observing the various stakeholders and root causes on a systemic level helped us identify multiple leverage points and concrete means to enact change.