Social Progress and Equity in Orange County, California

Orange County took a big step to make the county more equitable last week when it launched the OC Equity map, a new tool that applies the Social Progress Index in 580 census tracts across the county. The initiative is designed to help allocate resources and guide policy priorities to reduce disparities across the county, in standard of living and access to healthcare, that have been exacerbated during the pandemic. The tool is already proving to be a bridge-builder with both sides of the political aisle agreeing on its necessity. 

The launch of the equity map follows an initiative rolled out in July 2020, when the Orange County Board of Supervisors approved an agreement with Advance OC, a non-profit based in Newport Beach, to develop a local Social Progress Index to help the county’s health care agency identify root causes of emerging disparities as the pandemic unfolded. 

This depth of data will help create a roadmap for private and public partnerships to collectively address complex social circumstances at the root of inequities in health and well-being. The platform also supports the OC Health Care Agency’s mission to work collaboratively with the community to deliver sustainable and responsive services that promote population health and equity.

Dr. Clayton Chau, HCA Agency Director and County Health Officer

The Social Progress Imperative worked with Advance OC, the Orange County Health Agency, and a host of community advisors to develop a detailed mapping of social progress in 580 census tracts across the county. The Social Progress Index for Orange County provides a baseline of community health and wellness and aims to stimulate more public-private partnerships that collectively can work to remove the structural barriers to better health and wellness outcomes. It encourages elected officials and policymakers to create more participatory budgeting processes by actively engaging with constituents to tackle the needs identified in their communities. The index is publicly available, equipping residents with key data to engage local elected officials on neighborhood conditions and investment needs. 

The index is available in English, Spanish, Korean, Chinese, and Vietnamese to provide widespread adoption across major linguistic groups. 

From Data to Action

As many quickly realized as the pandemic raged, the fragilities of and within our communities are multi-faceted, resulting from decades of systemic failures and policies. These vulnerabilities were severely punished as Covid-19 disproportionally targeted the marginalized in the US as it did elsewhere.

Similar to the US Covid-19 Vulnerability mapping we published in the summer of last year, Advance OC has also developed a data platform that integrates near real-time Covid-19 case and death data to enhance the measurement of covid-19 vulnerability in Orange County neighborhoods. The interactive Orange County Equity Map visualizes Orange County into 580 census tracts and displays Social Progress Index scores, health-related indicators from the CDC, OC Health Care Agency Covid-19 case and death indicators, and demographic data for each tract. It also overlays locations of existing community resources like health clinics, senior centers, and grocery stores that can be customized for a variety of different use cases. 

This tool is now positioned to steer health equity initiatives across the county. From January – March 2021, the data allowed OC Health Care Agency officials to develop a rapid analysis of the most vulnerable communities and a prioritization matrix for vaccine distribution while vaccine supplies remained limited. Karin Kalk, a Director at the OC Health Care Agency, shared earlier this summer at the National Health Equity Summit how this helped the agency develop a rapid strategy to deploy mobile POD events and set target vaccination among the county’s elderly population.

From the press release:

The County will provide access to the OCEM platform to the public at no cost. It will allow users to measure, track, and map inequities in the community with neighborhood precision, including identifying root causes, understanding social determinants, and informing strategies to advance the health and wellbeing of Orange County residents.

AdvanceOC is honored to be working with the County of Orange and the HCA on this important initiative. We are proud to present this tool to the community to advance data-driven, equity-oriented strategies that tackle social and health disparities. Our partnership with the HCA highlights how data science can help organizations achieve greater impact. We hope to see more collaboration in the community and are excited that this tool can help facilitate important conversations around equity.

Katie Kalvoda, President & Board Chair, AdvanceOC. 

To test and explore this new analytic capability, HCA has been utilizing the OCEM platform in its Covid-19 responses, including testing, vaccine allocation and distribution, and other mitigation strategies. The platform also provides a roadmap for private and public partnerships to fund initiatives that seek collaborative approaches to addressing complex social circumstances at the root of inequities in health and well-being.

You can find additional media coverage here and here

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