Emory launches new vaccination tracker as part of its online health equity dashboard

Woodruff Health Sciences Center | Feb. 10, 2021

Contact

Catherine Morrow
camorro@emory.edu

Visitors to the vaccination tracker can see national and state data about the vaccine roll out and then get the racial breakdown of COVID-19 deaths along with social determinants information.

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Emory University researchers are enhancing a dynamic COVID-19 Health Equity dashboard to shine a light on how US states are progressing on the vaccination. Reports indicate that Black Americans, who have been disproportionately impacted by the virus, are lagging behind in getting the vaccine.

Visitors to the vaccination tracker can see national and state data about the vaccine roll out and then get the racial breakdown of COVID-19 deaths along with social determinants information such as poverty, access to health care, health insurance coverage, underlying health conditions, and housing issues. 

Shivani A. Patel, PhD, MPH, a social epidemiologist at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health who led the team that developed the dashboard, points out that the burden of COVID-19 has been unequal. Some communities—particularly those with a large minority population—are suffering higher infection rates, hospitalizations, and deaths.

“The original goal of the health equity dashboard was to show the virus’ differential impact. We added the vaccination tracker so that we can see how well we are reaching communities that have been hardest hit,” she says.

The team plans to boost the tracker’s functionality by overlaying racial, social, and healthcare infrastructure information on top of the vaccination data.  “Seeing the data overlaid gives us a clearer picture of where we have the most reason for concerns about health equity, even before states release localized data on who and where people are being vaccinated,” says Patel.

The health equity dashboard launched last June soon after the pandemic began in the United States to fill in the gaps about the interplay between health outcomes and underlying social determinants and other vulnerabilities, including health conditions such as diabetes and obesity.

On the equity dashboard 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.

“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. “We are in conversation with community leaders to understand how we can continue to update the dashboard data to be responsive to needs on the ground. This dashboard can help officials assess whether local response to COVID is equitable across communities, and tailor response accordingly. It provides 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? Where have we effectively contained the epidemic, and where are we falling short?

“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.”