Philadelphia's COVID-19 Vulnerability Indicators Dashboard

Digital Feature by Amy Carroll-Scott, Félice Lê-Scherban

Urban Health Collaborative   (Philadelphia)

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Urban Health Collaborative (UHC) built three community dashboards to inform local response and recovery efforts funded by a Drexel COVID-19 Rapid Response Research grant. Rather than duplicate the work done by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health with infection tracking, they built these dashboards to contextualize community vulnerability to the pandemic and its economic impacts by visualizing social, economic, and systemic factors geographically across the city. This is built using UHC’s definition of vulnerability to include areas of the city where residents have more exposure to the disease, worse outcomes, and less access to resources, reflecting historic and systemic inequities, including racism and classism.

Their first dashboard replicates the CDC’s Social Vulnerability Index created for the purpose of disaster preparedness and response. SVI indicators are organized around the themes of socioeconomic status, household composition and disability, minority status and language, and housing and transportation. The second dashboard shows additional vulnerabilities specific to COVID-19 that aren’t included in the CDC’s index. These include access to additional resources (e.g., internet, SNAP benefits), underlying health conditions that put someone at additional risk, and housing insecurity. The third dashboard provides information about essential workers by neighborhood, as well as broken down city-wide by race/ethnicity and income. All dashboards can be viewed by neighborhoods or planning districts. 

UHC has a robust dissemination plan to ensure the information is getting into the hands of the people who can use it the most. Community leaders beta tested the dashboards and provided feedback on the usefulness of the analyses. 

After launch, UHC promoted the dashboards to data users, health care delivery partners, community leaders, city agency staff, and advocates throughout the city. They have provided group and one-on-one trainings to help these groups understand and access the information. All dissemination efforts also highlight the expanded definition of vulnerability to highlight the historical and structural factors that differentiate the impact of the pandemic for different communities. 

Next steps for this work include obtaining and incorporating real-time data to show the impacts of COVID as it plays out, as well as expanding housing and behavioral health indicators in a dashboard co-created with Philadelphia LISC and a violence dashboard informed by the UHC Community Violence Working Group to show how community and police violence has changed during the pandemic. 

Data Sources include the American Community Survey, Public Use Microdata Sample, LODES, 500 Cities, HUD, and the EvictionLab.