HPI into Action

Measures of Impact

The HPI has been adopted widely across California and has been implemented broadly to equitably direct funding to create positive change in our communities, including:

Over

$1 Billion

in funding equitably directed to communities most in need

Hundreds

of uses across multiple sectors

Nearly

$272 Million

in federal COVID funding prioritized to the most disproportionately impacted communities

While we are proud of this initial impact, we know there is more work to be done, and we’re not stopping here.

"I’ve used the Healthy Places Index in a lot of conversations and presentations to help people understand the relationships between climate impacts and health inequities."
– Dr. Linda Rudolph Senior Climate and Health Advisor, Public Health Institute
Featured Case Study

Directing Scarce COVID Resources to Neighborhoods with Most Need

Systemic racism and inequitable policies and practices have resulted in worse health outcomes overall and higher COVID-19 infection and mortality rates during the pandemic among many communities of color.

To save lives and reduce these life-threatening inequities, public health leaders at the state and local levels used the HPI to direct resources to communities experiencing the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19.
At the state level, the HPI helped the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) track and monitor trends to focus policy and investment on the communities most impacted by COVID. The CDPH created a customized version of the HPI to direct approximately $272 million in federal COVID funding to disproportionately impacted areas and communities.

At the local level, multiple counties from San Diego to Marin used the HPI’s granular data to monitor COVID impact, vaccine coverage and demand. The HPI helped counties prioritize hundreds of millions of dollars in targeted investments to communities with the least healthy conditions. A few examples of this include:

Los Angeles County
Used the HPI to help vaccinate communities hardest hit by COVID, identify which community groups to partner with, and tailor education strategies.
Riverside County
Used the HPI to prioritize vaccine allocation to disproportionately impacted communities such as migrant farmworkers.
San Francisco County
The county's Feeding Unit used HPI to help map and protect disproportionately impacted residents from hunger.

Who Uses the HPI?

The HPI has become a go-to data tool tool for hundreds of state and local government agencies, foundations, advocacy groups, hospitals and other organizations that want to apply a health equity lens to better direct over a billion dollars in community investments, and to develop critical programs and policies across the state.

The HPI was designed to help leaders and organizations make sure that every dollar going to our communities is invested in the areas where it can have the largest impact to address long-standing inequities.

The HPI & COVID-19

The HPI has played a pivotal role in tracking, responding, and planning for recovery efforts related to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the resources below we provide an in-depth view into how the HPI tool has helped and continues to advance an equitable and just COVID-19 response and recovery.

We share examples and describe how the State of California and other sectors have specifically used the HPI and also provide an overview of the positive impacts that HPI’s place-based approach has had on allocating resources, ensuring an equitable reopening, and saving lives.

Sectors of Action

Local and State Governments

The health of residents — and the costs of providing health care — are shaped dramatically by “non-health” policies as well as the distribution of resources and investments into a particular area. Local and state agencies and policymakers recognize that the health of our communities is deeply influenced by policies affecting education, income, housing, transportation, food access, land use and zoning, the environment, and social services. These are considered “social drivers of health,” the social and environmental conditions that impact one’s health outcomes and life expectancy.

These local conditions also affect economic development and strategic growth by drawing new businesses, jobs, and work talent to communities. Decisions on these issues taken by a wide range of leaders and governmental organizations —  the governor, state legislators, mayors, city councils, county boards of supervisors, state and municipal agencies, and regional planning commissions — have a significant impact on people’s well-being, sometimes even more so than policies targeting local hospitals and healthcare.

The big question is, which of these diverse policy issues should leaders prioritize to improve health outcomes at the state, county, city and neighborhood levels? A good starting point is analyzing reliable data on social conditions that drive health that can be viewed at several geographic levels, from census tracts to congressional districts. Having the ability to filter by race and ethnicity, track changes over time, compare across geographies and identify areas affected by redlining provides opportunities to develop policies and programs that are both focused and high impact.

The Healthy Places Index does that, and much more.

Businesses, Investors, and Financial Institutions

Employers know that the health of their workers—and the spiraling costs of their medical care—are impacted by where their employees live. It’s estimated that illness-related productivity losses cost U.S. employers more than $530 billion in 2019. Although insurance and access to healthcare is important, the health of workers—as well as productivity, absenteeism, and the ability to cope with ongoing health conditions—are also heavily influenced by a variety of social factors, including economic opportunity, housing, transportation, food security and social services.

The same conditions also affect the local economy more broadly. Green space, housing, safety, and other amenities draw new businesses, jobs, and work talent to communities and are investment priorities for lenders, community development financial institutions (CDFIs), and philanthropists.

The business and financial sectors—from the Chamber of Commerce to local philanthropists—can use HPI alongside input from community residents and workers to set priorities and map the areas where health needs are greatest. For example, developers, CDFIs, and other local business organizations can use HPI to identify areas in need of housing improvements or grocery stores, and to prioritize infrastructure development.

The HPI also allows organizations to dig deep into community conditions to get a comprehensive understanding of the factors experienced on the ground. This includes filtering data by race and ethnicity, tracking changes over time, comparing geographies, identifying areas affected by redlining, and much more.

Community Organizations and Advocates

Our communities, from local residents to large social justice organizations, know better than anyone how access to reliable public transportation, affordable housing, fresh food, social services, green space and good schools promote — or in its absence hinder — well-being and health.

Organizations and community leaders committed to advancing health equity, racial justice, opportunity, and well-being will find that the HPI is a resolute ally to understand and improve the conditions that shape the health of the people they serve, partner alongside, and work to empower.

Community-based organizations can also benefit from the HPI to influence policymakers or apply for grants by running quick data analyses and producing ready-to-share maps that show health conditions across neighborhoods, cities, counties, and other geographies. The multiple levels of data available from a broad set of disciplines can be used to inform the development of campaigns and coalitions. Further, advocates can filter data by race and ethnicity to identify key populations, particularly small groups that are geographically dispersed, where they can provide resources and support.

More generally, organizations that span multiple communities or regions can use the tool to study and compare the different areas they serve and advocate for increased resources and greater investments in these locations—or suggest that the tool is used to allocate funding and other programs to areas where they will have the greatest impact.

In all its uses, the HPI maps and data work at their best when used alongside supporting community voices to add context to their experiences, expectations, strengths, and knowledge that the data cannot.

Health Care Professionals

Because they see it every day, clinicians and health care administrators and policymakers understand that non-clinical factors greatly influence health outcomes and health care costs.

Access to care and a patients’ ability to pursue healthy activities—a balanced diet or regular physical exercise—and manage chronic diseases depend on social factors like education, income, housing affordability, transportation access, and a healthy living environment.

Attention to social and environmental conditions has risen with the Affordable Care Act, making hospitals, health systems, and Accountable Care Organizations responsible for health outcomes and health equity among their patient population. Emergency departments and hospitals intent on improving outcomes and reducing overutilization are adopting systems to assist patients with food security, stable housing, and other social needs.

But which social conditions should they prioritize and which public policies should health systems advocate for in their communities?

A good starting point is analyzing reliable data on local factors that have been demonstrated to predict health outcomes, or for gauging how much they matter to health at the neighborhood level. Having the ability to filter by race and ethnicity, track changes over time, compare across geographies and identify areas affected by redlining provides the opportunity to develop policies and programs that are both focused and high impact.

The Healthy Places Index does that, and much more.

Directing Scarce COVID Resources to Neighborhoods with Most Need

Systemic racism and inequitable policies and practices have resulted in worse health outcomes overall and higher COVID-19 infection and mortality rates during the pandemic among many of our communities of color.

To save lives and reduce these life-threatening inequities, public health leaders at the state and local levels used the HPI to direct resources to communities experiencing the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19.

At the state level, the HPI helped the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) track and monitor trends to focus policy and investment on the communities most impacted by COVID. The CDPH used a customized version of the HPI to direct approximately $272 million in federal COVID funding to disproportionately impacted areas and communities.

At the local level, multiple counties from San Diego to Marin used the HPI’s granular data to monitor COVID impact, vaccine coverage and demand. The HPI helped counties prioritize hundreds of millions of dollars in targeted investments to communities with the least healthy conditions.

Roots of ChangeTracking California