Project Overview

How might we bring a human dimension to health data to better understand the needs of our neighbourhoods? The Local is a multimedia magazine featuring smart, in-depth health stories from Toronto's neighbourhoods. It is an initiative of UHN OpenLab, funded by the Toronto Central Local Health Integration Network . Our mission is to give voice to people who have poor health outcomes and are often not heard, and inform how services could be improved and be more equitable. 


My Role

As the Design & Editorial Assistant, I am in charge of: 

  • User research 

  • Journalism

  • Editorial design of stories and newsletters

  • Visual design and maintenance of the website

  • Tracking and reporting audience insights using Google Analytics

The Process

Our approach is to let the data lead us to communities with the most pressing health needs, and to people who can tell us their user experience and stories. We rely largely on the following neighbourhood-level datasets to guide our storyfinding: City of Toronto's demographics, Ontario Community Health Profiles, and Toronto Central LHIN's sub-region profiles. 

No Data Without Stories 

User Research & Storytelling

We borrow tools from ethnography, digital storytelling, and journalism to identify needs and gaps in neighbourhoods from a human experience standpoint. We then craft long-form writing, short documentaries, podcasts, and photo essays - shareable stories essentially - for creative knowledge translation. 

My Work

I love being a storyteller! Stories - especially those that tell human experiences - stick. They are powerful in eliciting empathy, which is fundamental in user experience research & design. I try to incorporate the element of storytelling in all of my design work to remind myself to always put the user at the center. 

This is a story I wrote about Kensington-Chinatown, which has one of the highest rates of low-urgency emergency visits in Toronto. Following this data, I went into the community, and interviewed both patients and providers to try identify the underlying causes of the phenomenon. I found out that there was a serious shortage of Chinese-speaking doctors in the community, leading to low continuity of primary care. Give the story a read here

Long-Form Story: "When Emergencies Aren't Urgent"

This is a short documentary I created on the topic of aging in place. As part of the Home Alone series, I visited a 90-year-old senior living alone in a Toronto Community Housing building in Chinatown. With no family around her to depend on, Lena tries to stay active and remain independent, so she can age with dignity. However, sometimes when she feels sick, she has to go to the hospital for help. 

Portrait Documentary: "Aging Alone in Chinatown"

Initially, our magazine used Medium for hosting. I then created a custom domain (, and migrated our site so we could have a more unique name and presence. As the visual and UI designer, I made sure the design and feel of our site align with our mission to tell stories about Toronto's local neighbourhoods, and ensured it was easy for readers to navigate the magazine by creating specific tags and tabs. 

The Website

I am in charge of creating the biweekly newsletters using Mailchimp and distributing them to over 550 recipients. In particular, I create a new data bite each week to highlight the health data and the neighbourhood in discussion. 

The Newsletter

The Impact

The stories are presented to health planners and policymakers regularly to help them better understand the gaps and opportunities within the health care system. Many participants find the stories exceptional in eliciting empathy, allowing them to resonate with patient experience, and inspiring them to ideate potential solutions to address population health needs. The Local currently has over 550 subscribers for its newsletter, and even more audience on its website. 

The Local

Inspiring better population health with human stories

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© 2017 by Cheryl Tsui