Emory launches national dashboard to help visualize and target COVID-19 disparities

Although COVID-19 has swept across the entire country, its burden has not been spread equally. Some communities—particularly those with a large minority population—suffer high infection rates, hospitalizations, and deaths. To shine a light on the virus’ differential impact, researchers at Emory University have developed the COVID-19 Health Equity Dashboard.

“Our goal was to go beyond describing COVID-19 incidence in communities. We wanted to fill in the gaps about the interplay between the health outcomes and the underlying social determinants and other vulnerabilities, such as diabetes and obesity,” says Shivani A. Patel, PhD, MPH, assistant professor of global health at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health who leads the team that developed the dynamic dashboard.

On the homepage, users can see a snapshot of COVID-19 deaths across the country. Selecting a state brings up a map displaying COVID-19 mortality by county. Drilling down, users can select a county to see how it compares to the rest of the state and to the country in average daily cases and deaths, and in social characteristics, such as percentage of residents who are African-American, percentage who live in poverty, percentage who are obese, percentage who have diabetes, and more.

The dashboard allows users to compare counties within the same state, aggregating key metrics that tell a story of a community’s social and economic health. For each state, dashboard users can select a COVID-19 outcome measure—total, average, or per-100,000 cases COVID-19 cases or deaths—and a social determinants measure—household income, population density, percentage African American, among others. The result is side-by-side color-coded maps that allow users to visualize the relationship between the virus’s health impact and social determinants of health at a county level.

Going forward, Patel and her team plan to parse that data into a sub-county level to see how communities within the country are being impacted differently. In Georgia, for example, Patel is working with the Georgia Department of Public Health to break down COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths by demographic categories, such as race, age, and neighborhood.

“We see this as an evolving resource for a variety of audiences, including policy makers, public health practitioners, researchers, and maybe even clinicians,” says Patel. “This dashboard could help officials assess whether local response to COVID is equitable across communities, and tailor response accordingly. It will provide quick access to data to decide where it’s feasible to open business back up and where it’s not. Where should testing sites be located? When a vaccine becomes available, which populations should be prioritized?

“There is no one-size-fits-all approach to combat this pandemic,” Patel continues. “To predict how it will unfold and to prepare for the future, it’s critical to understand the underlying risk factors that lead to higher incidence and mortality.”

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