Health Equity Tracker Launched to Study Racial Health Inequities Related to COVID-19
The Satcher Health Leadership Institute at Morehouse School of Medicine (SHLI), with support from Gilead Sciences, Google.org, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and the CDC Foundation, recently announced the launch of the Health Equity Tracker, a comprehensive data platform that can highlight and address the impact of COVID-19 and other diseases on the Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, Pacific Islander, and other vulnerable and marginalized communities.
The Health Equity Tracker is the premiere Health Equity-focused data visualization solution, capable of tracking multiple conditions and determinants that have impacted COVID-19 outcomes and exacerbated health inequities. Built as a forward looking, scalable platform, the Health Equity Tracker can ingest multiple data sets ranging from social and political determinants of health, demographics, and other variables—resulting in a novel, comparative approach to assessing and conceptualizing health inequities.
At launch, the tracker records COVID-19 cases, deaths, and hospitalizations nationwide across race and ethnicity, sex, and age, as well as by state and county. The tracker also measures comorbidities associated with COVID-19, including COPD, diabetes, and social and political determinants of health, including uninsured and poverty rates. The tracker will expand in the future to include additional conditions such as mental and behavioral health, as well as more social and political determinants of health that impact vulnerable communities, including persons with disabilities, LGBTQ+ individuals, and lower socioeconomic status people.
The tracker provides a unique contribution to the COVID-19 data landscape by specifically highlighting the significant data gaps that exist for vulnerable populations. The tracker’s emphasis on unknown and missing data, as exhibited using map visualizations, points to the work ahead towards improved data collection and reporting standards. The tracker demonstrates the often perceived invisibility of health inequities among populations, which may largely be masked by lack of data. Despite these data gaps, COVID-19 data from the tracker demonstrate that the disease disproportionately impacts people of color, particularly Black and Latinx communities.
Policymakers, public health officials, advocates, and community organizers can use the data to create actionable, evidence-based policy changes to attain health equity and ensure that disproportionately impacted communities receive resources and support.
“A game changer, while still in its initial phases, the Health Equity Tracker will provide us the opportunity to track the health inequities plaguing this country,” says Daniel Dawes, executive director of the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at Morehouse School of Medicine and author of the Political Determinants of Health. “Moreover, the tracker will enable us to find solutions that move beyond merely identifying areas and populations afflicted by these boundless health inequities. We are excited to work with key policymakers and partners to drive these solutions to create equitable policies that will alleviate the burden of the deeply rooted political determinants of health for all.”
Google.org, the technology company’s philanthropic arm, also helped support the build out of the Health Equity Tracker with $1.5 million in funding and a team of Google.org fellows. For the last nine months, more than 18 Google.org fellows have worked hand-in-hand with the SHLI leadership team and donated more than 15,000 pro-bono work hours providing technical expertise in the areas of data analytics, engineering, product development, UX research and design support for the Tracker. working.
“The pandemic has taken a disproportionately devastating toll on communities of color, proving that equity is the most important step to recovery,” says Dr. Ivor Horn, director of product inclusion and health equity at Google. “SHLI’s Health Equity Tracker unlocks essential data and insights that will help inform public health experts, policymakers, community leaders, and other key decision-makers as they work to better understand and address the health disparities impacting BIPOC communities throughout the United States. Making information more accessible and useful is the cornerstone of Google’s mission and we’re proud to support this critical work not just with our funding but with our Googler expertise as well.”
Gilead provided $1 million to SHLI to support the development of the Health Equity Tracker, the creation of a Black Health Equity Alliance, and the development of a COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force. The Black Health Equity Alliance has forged integral connections with Black organizations to develop health equity materials and numerous public service announcements to overcome vaccine hesitancy amongst Black communities.
“COVID-19 has exposed the racial inequities in our system, not created them, and we will continue to work with our partners like the Morehouse School of Medicine to create more equitable health outcomes for all,” says Douglas M. Brooks, vice president of advancing Black equity and community engagement, public affairs at Gilead Sciences. “The tracker launched by SHLI provides crucial information that will give us better insight into the health inequities faced by vulnerable communities and provide the greater health community with more knowledge to help mitigate disproportionate disease impacts.”
Source: Satcher Health Leadership Institute