May 6, 2022

Everyone should have the opportunity to live a healthy life. Our health is shaped by many community conditions such as economics, education, housing, and social factors. The Healthy Places Index combines community characteristics into a single indexed HPI Score, produced at the neighborhood level. These HPI scores can be compared across neighborhoods to paint an overall picture of health and well-being in each community. Read more below about how the HPI was applied to different communities around the country. 

The California Healthy Places Index

The California HPI is used statewide in areas of equitable grant-making, planning guidance, prioritizing investments, health assessments, integrating public health, and assessment and decision-making. The Center on Society and Health computer the California HPI 2.0 and served on the HPI Steering Committee for the recently released version 3.0. To learn more about how the California HPI is being applied to real-world decisions, visit https://healthyplacesindex.org/into-action/  

The California HPI website offers other resources everyone will find useful, including an interactive map, graphs, data tables, and a policy guide with practical solutions for improving community conditions and health. Visit the website and explore the interactive map here.

The Healthy Places Index in Virginia and the Washington D.C. metro area

Building upon the methods and approach developed for the California Healthy Places Index, CSH produced two reports closer to home that measured life expectancy in Northern Virginia and the Washington D.C. metro area. Both the reports showed how life expectancy varies throughout the region and how much of that variation is attributed to factors related to housing, transportation, education, household resources, and other economic characteristics.

As part of its regional planning effort, Region Forward, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) commissioned the Center to study inequities in health—and the factors that shape health—across the region’s 1,223 census tracts. The public officials in COG sought not only to document the health inequities that exist in the region, but also to identify the policy opportunities for improving health through improved education, economic well-being, housing, and other sectors. 

The study examined 10 geographic areas including the District of Columbia; Maryland (Charles County, Frederick County, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County); and Virginia (City of Alexandria, Arlington County, Fairfax County, Loudoun County, and Prince William County). In addition to the main report, the project also produced 80 maps for 10 jurisdictions, a technical appendix detailing methods, and a raw data file for use by local health departments and COG.

A second report for the region, Measuring Opportunity, provides a deeper look into Northern Virginia and the factors that affect life expectancy. Funded by the Northern Virginia Health Foundation, the report is accompanied by a series of one-page briefs that address various sectors and how they can interpret the HPI data to make a more equitable future - you can find those one-pagers, including one for business, local government, and education, here.