We have all heard or seen how the pandemic has affected vulnerable communities across the world due to structural and long-standing health inequities. Even so, there was no central resource to help consolidate, visualize and understand the data on a national scale.
Over the past year, a team of Google.org Fellows worked with the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at Morehouse School of Medicine and a multi-disciplinary Health Equity Taskforce to understand COVID-19 health inequities. And so, they’ve released The Health Equity Tracker (HET), a publicly available data platform that visually displays and contextualizes the health disparities facing communities of color throughout the U.S.
Why does it matter?
With $1.5 million of Google.org grant funding and over 15,000 pro bono hours donated from 18 Google.org Fellows, the HET parses through a mountain of public health data to record COVID-19 cases, deaths and hospitalizations nationwide across race and ethnicity, sex and age, as well as state and county. The tracker also measures social and systemic factors — like poverty and lack of health insurance — that exacerbate these inequities and have resulted in higher COVID-19 death rates for people of color, especially Black and Latinx communities.
According to Google, collecting this data showed them where there are gaps in our knowledge. Public health data can be inconsistent, collected in silos or missing completely. Knowing where these blindspots are is valuable. When we’re aware of unknown or missing data, we’re able to take action toward improving data collection and reporting standards.
How does it work?
The tracker currently focuses on data analysis for COVID-19, but in the future it is expected to be able to track additional conditions, like mental and behavioral health. Also, the researchers will include an analysis of health inequities for people with disabilities, the LGBTQ+ community and those facing socio-economic challenges.
Google’s announcement ends with hope for future generations, saying that they deserve more complete, accurate, and representative data that can advance health equity in times of crisis and beyond.
Also, they recommend us to watch Satcher Health Leadership Institute’s YouTube series to learn more about health equity tracker and the Google.org fellows who worked on it.