Application of a novel method for assessing cumulative risk burden by county

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2012 May;9(5):1820-35. doi: 10.3390/ijerph9051820. Epub 2012 May 10.


The purpose of this study is to apply the Human Security Index (HSI) as a tool to detect social and economic cumulative risk burden at a county-level in the state of Texas. The HSI is an index comprising a network of three sub-components or "fabrics"; the Economic, Environmental, and Social Fabrics. We hypothesized that the HSI will be a useful instrument for identifying and analyzing socioeconomic conditions that contribute to cumulative risk burden in vulnerable counties. We expected to identify statistical associations between cumulative risk burden and (a) ethnic concentration and (b) geographic proximity to the Texas-Mexico border. Findings from this study indicate that the Texas-Mexico border region did not have consistently higher total or individual fabric scores as would be suggested by the high disease burden and low income in this region. While the Economic, Environmental, Social Fabrics (including the Health subfabric) were highly associated with Hispanic ethnic concentration, the overall HSI and the Crime subfabric were not. In addition, the Education, Health and Crime subfabrics were associated with African American racial composition, while Environment, Economic and Social Fabrics were not. Application of the HSI to Texas counties provides a fuller and more nuanced understanding of socioeconomic and environmental conditions, and increases awareness of the role played by environmental, economic, and social factors in observed health disparities by race/ethnicity and geographic region.

Keywords: Texas; Texas-Mexico border; cumulative risk burden; race/ethnicity; socioeconomics.

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollution
  • Crime
  • Educational Status
  • Environment
  • Ethnic Groups
  • Geographic Information Systems
  • Health Status
  • Health Status Indicators*
  • Humans
  • Risk
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Texas