The reasons for health differences in Northern Virginia are numerous and complex, posing a challenge for policymakers and service providers attempting to make smart investments that maximize impact with limited resources.
But a powerful new tool can help local leaders better target resources to priority neighborhoods and address the factors that most contribute to the health and well-being of their residents.
The Healthy Places Index (HPI), developed by the Center on Society and Health at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), is a single, overall measure that sizes up the health of each census tract in Northern Virginia.
The HPI scores range from 0-100, where higher scores reflect areas with more resources for health and longer life expectancies. These scores also draw attention to neighborhoods where a combination of factors limit the opportunity of residents to realize optimal health.
For example, census tracts 2012.03 and 1036.01 are on either side of Glebe Road near the border of Alexandria and Arlington County. Census tract 1036.01 has an HPI of 83, reflecting good opportunities for health, whereas residents of track 2012.03 just south of Glebe Road, have an HPI of 46. This tract has fewer adults with postsecondary education, lower median income and home values, higher rates of unemployment and poverty and lower life expectancy.
A new issue brief, Measuring Opportunity, produced by VCU, delves deeper into the HPI data and what can be done to ensure that all residents have the potential to thrive and enjoy a healthier tomorrow.
To explore the HPI for yourself, select the HPI indictator on our interactive map.