Health Matters, Place Matters
The Virginia Department of Health’s Office of Minority Health and Health Equity (VDH-OMHHE) has launched an updated version of the Virginia Health Opportunity Index (HOI). The Virginia HOI is an online mapping tool of community health influences that allows advocates, citizens and providers to view the many factors that affect health across the Commonwealth.
The Virginia HOI, which was first developed in 2012 as part of the Virginia Health Equity Report, provides a composite measure of the social determinants of health – the social, economic, educational, demographic and environmental factors that relate to a community’s well-being. It is part of the state’s continuing efforts to improve the health of all Virginians.
The Virginia HOI consists of 13 indicators that act as the building blocks of the HOI. These indicators were chosen following an extensive review of the literature on the Social Determinants of Health (SDOH). Although there are innumerable variables and indicators that could be included, indicators were chosen based on the following criteria:
- Their influence on health as expressed in the literature
- Input form Local Health Districts and other stakeholders
- The availability of data of consistent quality at the Census Tract level for all Census Tracts in Virginia
Those 13 indicators are organized into four profiles:
- Community Environmental (indicator of natural, built and social environment)
- Consumer Opportunity (measure of consumer resources available)
- Economic Opportunity (measure of economic opportunities available, highlighting employment and income)
- Wellness Disparity (measure of disparate access to health services)
The data gathered was combined into a single index of information in an interactive, web-based format that allows users to make their own determinations of how these external factors affect the health of their communities. For instance, the Counties Dashboard shows that counties with the lowest rankings in community environment also tend to rank low in overall health opportunity. Does that mean the design of a neighborhood affects the health of its residents? It’s questions like this that we hope the Virginia HOI inspires, so that all Virginians may begin to look at the whole picture of their health.
We are extremely proud of the site, and we hope you find it engaging and informative. Please check the site often for blog updates that highlight different facets of the Virginia HOI, how it may be used, and general public health topics.
For VDH employees, the data on the Virginia HOI can also be seen on the Community Health Assessment dashboards, which will be available soon.
Requests for Virginia HOI data must be sent via the Virginia HOI contact form.