Using the Minority Health Social Vulnerability Index to Drive Equitable Public Health Efforts

Posted on August 23, 2021 by Rebecca Mak, Policy Intern, HHS Office of Minority Health; Minh Wendt, Public Health Advisor and Data Team Lead, HHS Office of Minority Health; Juliet Bui, Public Health Advisor, HHS OMH

During public health crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic, racial and ethnic minority groups disproportionately experience adverse outcomes like high hospitalization and mortality rates as a result of a variety of factors, including social determinants of health (SDOH).1,2 SDOH are conditions in the places where people live, learn, work, and play that affect a wide range of health and quality-of-life outcomes and risks. Examples of SDOH include healthcare access and quality, education, racism and discrimination, economic stability, housing, and environmental conditions. The Minority Health Social Vulnerability Index (Minority Health SVI) is a new database developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Minority Health (OMH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This database integrates SDOH and other vulnerability-associated data to support the identification of communities at risk for disproportionate impact from COVID-19 and other public health crises.

The Minority Health SVI:

  • Is an extension of the CDC/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry Social Vulnerability Index (CDC/ATSDR SVI), which uses demographic variables to help local officials identify communities that may need support before, during, or after disasters.
  • Expands upon the CDC/ATSDR SVI by 1) adding risk factors associated with COVID-19 outcomes, such as chronic diseases, availability of healthcare facilities, health insurance coverage, and access to the internet; and 2) disaggregating data on specific race/ethnicity and language categories.
  • Can be accessed through the Minority Health SVI dashboard, an interactive platform for users to view and map Minority Health SVI variables and index by county.

In light of the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 and longstanding structural inequities experienced by racial and ethnic minority populations, the Minority Health SVI is an invaluable resource that improves access to local data. This data will allow users to better understand racial/ethnic groups, language preferences, and factors associated with racial and ethnic health disparities in each community. The Minority Health SVI also allows users to more deeply comprehend the social vulnerability of specific racial and ethnic minority communities and better allocate public health resources.

OMH is using the Minority Health SVI’s comprehensive data to promote equity in its policy and program efforts. The Minority Health SVI is an important tool available to awardees to support these efforts.

1 Introduction to COVID-19 Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities. Accessed on July 29, 2021.
2 At A Glance: CDC/ATSDR Social Vulnerability Index. Accessed on July 29, 2021.