November 17, 2021

The Relationship between Health and Place: Expanding Use of Place-Based Disadvantage Indices Beyond COVID-19

Harald Schmidt spoke to Rachel Campbell-Baier and Caitlin Otter at Academy Health on the value of disadvantage indices and how they can be improved so better care can be provided to communities.

From Academy Health Blog:

In order for disadvantage indices to be effective in reducing health inequities, the data must be reliable. Given that race and ethnicity data is often missing or has other quality concerns, there is a critical need for investments in social determinants of health data infrastructure. Additionally, data granularity should accurately reflect the variability of the communities it describes.

“One major difference among widely used indices is [the scale of] the geographic area they center on,” said Schmidt, who spoke on the AcademyHealth webinar.

Some, such as the ADI, use block group level data (600 to 1200 people), while others, including the widely used SVI, use census tract data (1200 to 8000 people). Particularly in urban areas, where community resources might change from neighborhood to neighborhood, census tract data could fail to reflect the specific community needs and barriers experienced by the people who live there. However, Schmidt pointed out that “it is much harder to integrate data at the block group level […] so, there are tradeoffs between accuracy and feasibility.” This calls for investments in data infrastructure and capacity that will improve accuracy and accessibility of granular-level data to researchers and policymakers.

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