Informing Racially Equitable COVID-19 Responses across Seattle Neighborhoods
Black, Indigenous, and people of color experience worse social, economic, and health outcomes in King County, Washington. A long history and persistence of structural racism causes these disparities among racial and ethnic groups and neighborhoods. To better understand which communities faced disparities in the wake of the pandemic, the staff at Assessment Policy Development and Evaluation Unit (APDE) at Public Health-Seattle and King County and Communities Count, the NNIP member for Seattle, moved quickly to create the COVID-19 Vulnerable Communities Data Tool. Launched in March 2020, the tool provides data on communities who are more susceptible to COVID-19 and its social and economic impacts to help the health department and other stakeholders equitably distribute response resources in King County.
From their role in providing data through Communities Count, APDE could efficiently re-deploy existing neighborhood data to build their COVID-19 tool before widely accessible COVID-19 data were available. The tool compiles 15 key indicators from 7 data sources at the neighborhood, school district, and county level, using interactive maps and charts to present the data. Indicators were selected to understand neighborhoods where older adults and adults with chronic diseases live and where people had limited resources to weather the pandemic. Proxy measures were used to identify areas where people had limited resources, including not having health insurance, living below 200% of the federal poverty level, living in a limited English-speaking household, students eligible for free and reduced-price meals, students experiencing homelessness, and caregivers without someone to turn to. To supplement insights from the indicators, Communities Count summarized findings from interviews with 16 people providing services and support to the community.
The COVID-19 data tool has been viewed over 26,000 times since the public launch. When the tool was launched, it was publicized through the Public Health Department’s dissemination channels, local media, newsletters, and presentations with partner organizations. Stakeholders had used the tool for resource allocation, program planning, advocacy, policy planning, and research on COVID-19 racial disparities in King County. For example, the King County Office of Emergency Management based their free community mask distribution sites on the tool’s race/ethnicity and poverty level maps.
King County’s tool inspired the North Sound Accountable Communities of Health (ACH) to request a similar tool for northern Washington. North Sound ACH is a nonprofit that supports 55 organizational partners in Medicaid practice transformation in the five northern Washington counties. King County built the tool for the five counties with data that North Sound ACH provided and their best practices for creating data in tribal areas. North Sound ACH hosted a webinar and shared the tool via a newsletter to their partners. They also used the tool to place mask distribution, rapid testing, and vaccine sites in ZIP codes where people are more likely to be critically ill or affected from an economic shut down. Beyond COVID-19 support, the tool helped North Sound ACH identify rural areas that needed more support services and helped plan a flood response when thousands of people were displaced in 2021.
The COVID-19 Vulnerable Communities Data Tool informed the decisions of government agencies, service providers, nonprofit organizations, and researchers to bring additional help to neighborhoods and residents who were most impacted by COVID-19. With easy-to-access information, regional leaders and organizations could better address negative impacts from COVID-19 as well as from future disasters, particularly for older adults and people of color and with low incomes. This story was written by Elizabeth Burton at the Urban Institute. A thank you to Mariko Toyoji for their support with this story. Communities Count is the Seattle Partner in the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership, a learning network in 30 cities coordinated by the Urban Institute. All Partners ensure communities have access to data and the skills to use information to advance equity and well-being across neighborhoods.
This story was written by Elizabeth Burton at the Urban Institute. A thank you to Mariko Toyoji for their support with this story. Communities Count is the Seattle Partner in the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership, a learning network in 30 cities coordinated by the Urban Institute. All Partners ensure communities have access to data and the skills to use information to advance equity and well-being across neighborhoods.
The Metro Atlanta Racial Equity Atlas (MAREA) is a new data tool that focuses on how systemic racism affects neighborhoods and...[read more]
Regional businesses have an important role in advancing racial equity in their communities. A group of chief executives and business leaders in San Antonio, Texas, came...[read more]