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Background: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and its affiliate the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry established an index to identify the social vulnerability for natural disasters and infectious disease outbreaks for communities in the United States. This index, potentially, may be useful in evaluating the impact of social vulnerability on health.
Aim: The objective of the study is to identify the relationship of the Social Vulnerability index with COVID-19, chronic diseases, and life expectancy.
Methods: Social Vulnerability Index values were obtained for counties in Georgia, Louisiana (parishes), Michigan, and Mississippi. Current data on COVID-19, diabetes and obesity prevalence, premature age-adjusted death rates, and life expectancy were obtained from the County Health Ranking and Roadmaps. Pearson’s correlation coefficients were calculated for the relationship of social vulnerability and health outcomes. The relationship of funding for
public health and social services interventions that target the social determinants of health as a
mechanism for reducing community vulnerabilities was also examined.
Results: Correlations were determined between social vulnerability and several health outcomes, both infectious and chronic diseases. Life expectancy was correlated with social vulnerability, overall and by race. Study findings found a positive correlation between social vulnerability and COVID-19 infections and mortality, premature age-adjusted mortality, and the prevalence of diabetes and obesity. There is a negative correlation between social vulnerability and life expectancy. Additionally, life expectancy was greater in non-Hispanic Whites compared to non-Hispanic Blacks.
Conclusion: The study results can be used to guide policies directed to improvements in the social
determinants of health that target reductions in community vulnerabilities. Social vulnerability of communities can be reduced with adequate resource allocations in public health and social
services to mitigate untoward health outcomes associated with natural disasters and disease outbreaks.
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