US-county level variation in intersecting individual, household and community characteristics relevant to COVID-19 and planning an equitable response: a cross-sectional analysis

BMJ Open. 2020 Sep 1;10(9):e039886. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2020-039886.

Abstract

Objectives: To illustrate the intersections of, and intercounty variation in, individual, household and community factors that influence the impact of COVID-19 on US counties and their ability to respond.

Design: We identified key individual, household and community characteristics influencing COVID-19 risks of infection and survival, guided by international experiences and consideration of epidemiological parameters of importance. Using publicly available data, we developed an open-access online tool that allows county-specific querying and mapping of risk factors. As an illustrative example, we assess the pairwise intersections of age (individual level), poverty (household level) and prevalence of group homes (community-level) in US counties. We also examine how these factors intersect with the proportion of the population that is people of colour (ie, not non-Hispanic white), a metric that reflects histories of US race relations. We defined 'high' risk counties as those above the 75th percentile. This threshold can be changed using the online tool.

Setting: US counties.

Participants: Analyses are based on publicly available county-level data from the Area Health Resources Files, American Community Survey, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Atlas file, National Center for Health Statistic and RWJF Community Health Rankings.

Results: Our findings demonstrate significant intercounty variation in the distribution of individual, household and community characteristics that affect risks of infection, severe disease or mortality from COVID-19. About 9% of counties, affecting 10 million residents, are in higher risk categories for both age and group quarters. About 14% of counties, affecting 31 million residents, have both high levels of poverty and a high proportion of people of colour.

Conclusion: Federal and state governments will benefit from recognising high intrastate, intercounty variation in population risks and response capacity. Equitable responses to the pandemic require strategies to protect those in counties at highest risk of adverse COVID-19 outcomes and their social and economic impacts.

Keywords: epidemiology; health policy; public health.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors*
  • Aged
  • Betacoronavirus
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Coronavirus Infections* / diagnosis
  • Coronavirus Infections* / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Ethnic Groups / statistics & numerical data*
  • Family Characteristics*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pandemics*
  • Pneumonia, Viral* / diagnosis
  • Pneumonia, Viral* / epidemiology
  • Poverty / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prevalence
  • Public Health* / methods
  • Public Health* / statistics & numerical data
  • Risk Assessment / methods
  • Risk Assessment / statistics & numerical data
  • Risk Factors
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Survival Analysis*
  • United States

Supplementary concepts

  • COVID-19
  • severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2