Use SDOH Data to Better Target Local Testing and Contact Tracing Efforts

Use SDOH Data to Better Target Local Testing and Contact Tracing Efforts

SDOH data can be used to help local governments understand which populations may be most at risk of contracting COVID-19 and target resources appropriately. SDOH data can also be used to understand impacted populations and plan culturally appropriate contact tracing. Public testing sites can be located based on analysis of the relation between testing facilities and COVID-19 burden as well as data from sources like the CDC’s Social Vulnerability Index (SVI), which can shed light on where communities may need additional testing capacity due to lack of insurance coverage, high unemployment rates, systemic inequities, and other factors. 

Some cities and programs are already using this approach. For example, the Washington, D.C. government has used SDOH data to proactively identify potential hotspots and open testing sites in areas that most need testing capacity. The D.C. Office of Health Equity has analyzed factors like life expectancy, food insecurity, car ownership, and crime across 51 D.C. statistical neighborhoods by borrowing data and analysis from numerous offices in the federal government. In a few cities and regions, the Resilient American Communities (RAC) initiative is providing toolkits and resources to enable communities to improve contact tracing efforts and testing for vulnerable populations. The RAC draws upon data from those local communities and also enables community groups to provide local insight into neighborhoods where public health officials should focus their efforts. These efforts could be scaled to achieve more widespread impact.

Next steps: Identify examples and develop guidelines that could be used by local officials to apply SDOH data to help them locate public testing sites. Encourage increased information sharing between local health departments, CDC, healthcare providers, commercial testing companies, and other stakeholders involved in testing with a focus on integrating existing sources of SDOH data with data on testing sites and availability. Provide technical assistance to localities to facilitate their implementation of the new guidelines.

Impact: Will give local planners more insight into testing capacity and need across geographies and make it easier for federal agencies to direct resources in more targeted ways. May also help build touch points with communities that have traditionally distrusted the government and medical system by ensuring that they have access to testing and are included in contact tracing efforts. 

Who can take action: Offices within HHS, for example the CDC or the Office of the National Coordinator. Commercial data companies (eg. digital map providers). Local governments. Nonprofit and industry organizations.