The Health Opportunity Index: Understanding the Input to Disparate Health Outcomes in Vulnerable and High-Risk Census Tracts

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Aug 10;17(16):5767. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17165767.


The Health Opportunity Index (HOI) is a multivariate tool that can be more efficiently used to identify and understand the interplay of complex social determinants of health (SDH) at the census tract level that influences the ability to achieve optimal health. The derivation of the HOI utilizes the data-reduction technique of principal component analysis to determine the impact of SDH on optimal health at lower census geographies. In the midst of persistent health disparities and the present COVID-19 pandemic, we demonstrate the potential utility of using 13-input variables to derive a composite metric of health (HOI) score as a means to assist in the identification of the most vulnerable communities during the current pandemic. Using GIS mapping technology, health opportunity indices were layered by counties in Ohio to highlight differences by census tract. Collectively we demonstrate that our HOI framework, principal component analysis and convergence analysis methodology coalesce to provide results supporting the utility of this framework in the three largest counties in Ohio: Franklin (Columbus), Cuyahoga (Cleveland), and Hamilton (Cincinnati). The results in this study identified census tracts that were also synonymous with communities that were at risk for disparate COVID-19 related health outcomes. In this regard, convergence analyses facilitated identification of census tracts where different disparate health outcomes co-exist at the worst levels. Our results suggest that effective use of the HOI composite score and subcomponent scores to identify specific SDH can guide mitigation/intervention practices, thus creating the potential for better targeting of mitigation and intervention strategies for vulnerable communities, such as during the current pandemic.

Keywords: GIS; Ohio; disease convergence; health disparities; health equity; health opportunity index; principal component analysis; public health exposome; social determinants of health; thematic mapping.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Betacoronavirus
  • COVID-19
  • Censuses
  • Coronavirus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Geographic Mapping
  • Humans
  • Ohio / epidemiology
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / epidemiology*
  • Principal Component Analysis
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Social Determinants of Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Socioeconomic Factors