COVID Local Risk Index Helps Identify Cities, Neighborhoods with Populations at Higher Risk

July 15, 2020


Jennifer Wessel, JD, MPH
Senior Policy Analyst and Data Privacy Officer

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COVID-19 has shown how health inequalities affect disadvantaged groups and black communities across the U.S. In Arkansas, blacks make up nearly 30% of the COVID-19 cases and deaths yet only account for 16% of the population. Evidence of the uneven impact of the pandemic can also be seen by looking at factors such as socioeconomic status, age, and underlying health conditions.

The City Health Dashboard released a new metric in June to help identify cities and neighborhoods at risk for higher numbers of COVID-19 cases and more severe outcomes. The COVID Local Risk Index incorporates risk factors including age, race, housing, income, and underlying health conditions. The index is designed to be comparable across cities and highlight areas of risk for COIVD-19 impact.

Below are index values and city maps from the COVID Local Risk Index for five cities in Arkansas, the only cities that have been included at this time. The index values range from 1 (lowest risk) to 10 (highest risk). The average value across all cities on the dashboard is 5.5. Importantly, the index does not account for all risks associated with COVID-19 or predict exposure. For example, there are currently more active cases in Fayetteville than in Fort Smith; however, Fayetteville has better outcomes on several measures used to calculate the index and therefore has a lower index value than Fort Smith.

More granular neighborhood data is available using census tract boundaries. Areas in Little Rock that appear to be more at-risk are similar to those we previously identified in our work on social determinants of health and school performance.

More about the City Health Dashboard:

The City Health Dashboard pulls together data from several national sources. The dashboard now includes over 35 measures and data for over 750 U.S. cities. Eight Arkansas cities are included on the City Health Dashboard: Conway, Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Jonesboro, Little Rock, North Little Rock, Rogers, and Springdale. Some metrics, including the COVID Local Risk Index, are not available for all cities. The project is sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Department of Population Health at NYU Langone Health.

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