Highlight on Virginia: Health Opportunity Index maps out disparities

An updated version of the Virginia Health Opportunity Index (HOI) allows consumers, policymakers, and providers to evaluate multiple social determinants of health as they impact different geographic areas of the Commonwealth. The Virginia Department of Health’s Office of Minority Health and Health Equity (VDH-OMHHE) originally developed the HOI to provide a picture of the social, economic, educational, demographic and environmental factors that impact community health. Since its inception, the HOI has been redesigned into a continuously updated source of information to help stakeholders engage with changing health data using a convenient, visual dashboard.

Dashboards and Indicators

The HOI website uses a number of interactive dashboards and maps to allow consumers, policy-makers, and providers to interactively examine the HOI data. With separate dashboards for counties, health districts, and legislative districts, the HOI interface is designed to allow scrutiny of the data at multiple different levels of detail. The HOI relies on 13 indicators, which were chosen to serve as the building blocks of the HOI. The indicators were selected for their influence upon health, stakeholder input, and the availability of data on those factors for all of the relevant geographical areas in Virginia.  The indicators are all focused on determining an individual’s opportunity to live a long and healthy life in a particular area.

Profiles

The HOI dashboards synthesize the 13 indicators into four different profiles: the Community Environment Profile, the Consumer Opportunity Profile, the Economic Opportunity Profile, and the Wellness Disparity Profile. The Community Environment Profile is an indicator of social and natural measures, including air quality, population turnover, population density, and walkability, which refers to street connectivity and public transit accessibility. The Consumer Opportunity Profile measures the availability of consumer resources, including access to and the affordability of food, transportation, housing, and education. The Economic Opportunity Profile evaluates economic opportunity in individual communities by measuring employment accessibility, income inequality, and the number of individuals actively participating in the workforce. The Wellness Disparity Profile provides a measure of the disparate nature of access to health care services within in a community. The Wellness Disparity Profile indicates access by measuring the number of physicians in a community, the number of uninsured individuals. The Profile also more broadly considers whether community members have access to a primary care physician and the means to pay for care.

Impact

According to VDH-OMHHE,” the HOI is remarkably predictive of health outcomes.” The VDH-OMHHE believes that because the HOI explains the majority of life expectancy variation in Virginia’s Census Tracts, the HOI influence is comparable to that of the World Health Organization’s Social Determinants of Health (SDOH). In other words, Virginia believes that its HOI does as good of a job predicting health outcomes as the economic and social predictor of health used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The HOI is premised upon an understanding that place matters and, with appropriate spatial modeling, health care can be improved. The HOI provides a wealth of information. Now, stakeholders need to put that information to good use in order to start improving health across the state of Virginia.