A Data Solution for Nonprofits & Health Care Administrators Facing the COVID Crisis

The COVID-19 Community Vulnerability Index is a science-backed community vulnerability assessment solution with one of the most extensive literature review foundations of any COVID-19 assessment tool currently available, and the most comprehensive representation of the lasting impacts of COVID-19.

COVID is likely to have lasting effects on community health and economics. Vaccine distribution has started, and this is expected to ramp up, but even if the population is inoculated in the coming weeks and months, the effects of the virus are still going to linger. A portion of individuals who contracted COVID will experience ongoing health complications directly related to the disease, and economic hardship will not disappear overnight. It will take time and targeted outreach to rebuild from the devastation.

Health care systems and nonprofits have suffered from budget shortfalls and capacity challenges due to COVID. Resources are stretched from both ends as a direct result of the pandemic, with funding becoming less reliable and community needs vastly increasing. This makes it essential that organizations are able to assess community needs and plan for efficient resource distribution and outreach.

This assessment and planning isn’t straightforward, however, as the categories of harm intersect in complicated ways. It’s entirely possible that two communities could have similar infection rates, yet one experiences more harm due to higher incidences of complicating health factors, such as obesity or respiratory disease. Or it could be the case that two communities have similar rates of infection and complicating health factors, yet one experiences more harm due to economic factors, such as housing instability or lower rates of health insurance coverage.

The Community Vulnerability Index

The Community Vulnerability Index (CVI) was created to help with this problem. Our tool provides an interactive web application where users can visualize health, infrastructure, socioeconomic, demographic, policy, and other related data for each county in the United States. The heart of the product is its ability to identify and project vulnerability within a community. For this, we derived a series of metrics for assessing community needs, and we use predictive modeling to determine where aid would be most effective.

The project started as part of the COVID-19 Data Hack in April of 2020, which was sponsored by New Lab, a Brooklyn-based shared workspace designed to encourage collaboration between tech-manufacturing professionals. Founder Dr. Savannah Thais and collaborators identified eight indices to quantify COVID-related community needs and enable organizations to respond effectively. These indices are:

  • risk of severe case complications
  • risk of economic harm
  • need for mobile health resources
  • need for food resources
  • need for mental health resources
  • risk of overwhelming health care infrastructure
  • community connectedness
  • information deserts

After the hackathon, the team strengthened the research base with existing public health literature and created a user-facing interactive dashboard. The broader organization Community Insight and Impact (CII) was formed, with the CVI as their first signature product.

Our Data

CVI’s dataset comprises a range of public health and health care information, along with county-level socioeconomic, demographic, and COVID-specific information. We include data from the following open-access sources:

The full dataset can be found on our GitHub, along with definitions for all included variables. All data used is validated and cleaned by our team to ensure a quality dataset. The data is open for viewing and downloading, so researchers, health care administrators, policymakers, and any other entities are free to use it. Our community needs and vulnerability indices are built from this dataset by carefully selecting, scaling, and combining relevant indicators based on an extensive review of public health, biomedical, and sociology literature. Our Machine Learning team statistically validates the indices and connects trends to relevant public policies.

Community Insight and Impact

Community Insight and Impact (CII), the broader organization that created CVI, aims to enable organizations to quantitatively understand and respond to community needs. The organization does this by building accessible, science-backed data tools that assess and display community vulnerability.

CII Values

CII’s core values are:

Data belongs to the people: we are committed to using open data and making the details of our analyses accessible to and interpretable by the people they affect.

Community voices must be elevated: CII exists to serve communities and we believe their needs, opinions, and concerns must be incorporated at every stage of analysis.

Data responsibility is necessary: data must be collected, analyzed, stored, and distributed in a manner that is equitable and respects privacy and data rights.

Diversity at every level: we are committed to building a team that is diverse along all axes and believe all backgrounds and skill sets are necessary to making data accessible and equitable.

A fully transparent organization: members are involved in all levels of decision making; concerns and input are actively sought, not just accepted. All work is well documented and interpretable.

Our work benefits everyone: we exist to serve the community, and that includes our members. Professional interests and growth opportunities drive all assignments.

The CII Team

The 30+ CII members come from diverse professional and academic backgrounds. The team includes graduates, postgraduates, researchers, and professionals in public health, health sciences, data science, machine learning, business, and political science.

There are currently 12 volunteers on the team from Solve for Good, a platform run by Data Science for Social Good that connects nonprofits with data science volunteers.

Expanding Beyond COVID

The CVI was devised to help nonprofits address the impacts of COVID-19 in their communities, however we expect its utility to outlive the pandemic. CVI evaluates other needs unrelated to COVID-19, and we also custom-build metrics for nonprofits upon request.

CII is currently partnering with Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, supporting the organization in its mission to provide reproductive health care services and education. We are developing a customized vulnerability metric for identifying communities lacking in sexual health care with the goal of helping Planned Parenthood identify where their services are most needed. The customized CVI will also offer utility beyond this scope, such as providing insights related to applying for funding.

CII plans to develop metrics for a range of categories over time to help a variety of organizations across the US quantitatively understand and respond to community needs.

New York City Renter Vulnerability Index

CII is also developing a more specific version of the CVI in collaboration with the UCLA Center for Neighborhood Knowledge’s Renter Vulnerability Index. This dashboard will map neighborhoods in New York City by concentration of people at risk of missing next month’s rent due to COVID-related economic harm. The aim of this tool will be to help public agencies effectively target renter protection policies and outreach, and make optimal use of resources.

Try the CVI Dashboards

We encourage nonprofits and members of the public to check out our ARCGIS dashboard. Here you’ll find an intuitive data visualization of COVID’s impact in your community (or any other community in the US).

Health care administrators and researchers can head to our DASH dashboard. You will find a similarly useful community needs assessment visualization tool, along with a clean, comprehensive dataset you can download for your own use.

You can follow us on Twitter and Medium to stay up to date with our new analyses and releases. Please reach out to covid.vulnerability@gmail.com with any questions or if you are interested in joining the team!




Empowering communities through equitable & responsible data analytics

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

5 Top Tips for Data Scraping Using Selenium

Day 146 of #NLP365: NLP Papers Summary — Exploring Content Selection in Summarization of Novel…

Improve data literacy by putting more power in the hands of your end-users

Integrated Labelling: Truth as you Dare!

Why Data Democratization Is Crucial To Your Business And Ways To Achieve It

Understanding Job satisfaction across Countries and Genders.

Heatmap for Survey data

Centrality Metrics via NetworkX, Python

Mistborn: The Final Eyebrow

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Community Insight and Impact

Community Insight and Impact

Empowering communities through equitable & responsible data analytics

More from Medium

Abuela’s gift: what Disney’s Encanto teaches us about grandmothers

Image of Alma Madrigal, the grandmother in Disney’s Encanto movie

Loveless by Alice Oseman (BR#1)

Optimizing Your District’s Mental Health MTSS for Crisis Recognition and Response

Saving lives through Doha: A medical humanitarian perspective