New Health Equity Tool Tracks How the Pandemic is Affecting Communities

Posted July 19, 2021
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Map of America, with states colored differently according to their concentration of COVID-19 cases.

Researchers are using data to map the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact across the nation and illus­trate its dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly dev­as­tat­ing toll on Black and Lati­no communities.

Called Health Equi­ty Track­er, the new tool is designed to aid pol­i­cy­mak­ers and lead­ers in iden­ti­fy­ing exist­ing racial health inequities so that they can shift resources to the hard­est hit communities.

The Satch­er Health Lead­er­ship Insti­tute at More­house School of Med­i­cine in Atlanta launched the track­er, and the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion joined a con­sor­tium of fun­ders — includ­ing Gilead Sci­ences, Google​.org and CDC Foun­da­tion — to sup­port its development. 

The Health Equi­ty Track­er is an impor­tant resource for com­mu­ni­ties, deci­sion mak­ers and researchers to under­stand and close the racial gap in health out­comes and ensure that all com­mu­ni­ties have equi­table access to health ser­vices,” says T’Pring West­brook, a senior research asso­ciate at the Casey Foundation.

The track­er maps the num­ber of COVID-19 cas­es, hos­pi­tal­iza­tions and deaths across the Unit­ed States by race, eth­nic­i­ty, gen­der, socioe­co­nom­ic sta­tus and oth­er social and polit­i­cal deter­mi­nants of health. Users can cus­tomize search­es at the coun­ty, state, ter­ri­to­ry or nation­al level. 

The track­er also high­lights data gaps. For exam­ple: It shows that many states do not record infor­ma­tion for Amer­i­can Indi­an, Alas­ka Native, Native Hawai­ian and Pacif­ic Islander racial cat­e­gories. In doing so, the tool under­scores how miss­ing data can mask health inequities among pop­u­la­tions and ren­der them invis­i­ble in the public’s perception. 

Beyond map­ping pan­dem­ic-relat­ed data, the tool also tracks med­ical con­di­tions asso­ci­at­ed with COVID-19 — includ­ing COPD and dia­betes — as well as social fac­tors, such as pover­ty rates and health insur­ance cov­er­age. Devel­op­ers plan to expand the plat­form, adding data relat­ed to men­tal health, peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties, indi­vid­u­als who are LGBTQ, and more. 

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