246306 How much does it matter? Developing a tool to help the public quantify the importance of social determinants of health

Tuesday, November 1, 2011: 2:30 PM

Steven Woolf, MD , Virginia Commonwealth University, Department of Family Medicine, Fairfax, VA
Amber Haley, MPH , Center on Human Needs, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, Richmond, VA
Robert Johnson, PhD , Biostatistics, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA
Chunfeng Ren, MPH , Biostatistics, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA
Alex Field , Burness Digital, Burness Communications, Bethesda, MD
Objective: To develop a tool to help the public and policymakers appreciate how strongly mortality is associated with social determinants.

Methods: University researchers, a major foundation, a web developer, and a communication firm coupled epidemiological research with a methodical communication plan to produce a scientifically rigorous online tool that showcases the association between mortality and an area's income level and educational attainment. Biostatisticians developed a non-linear regression equation to run the tool, based on calculations derived from census data and vital statistics for more than 3,000 counties. The communications team designed a wire frame, a messaging strategy tailored to target audiences, and interactive web 2.0 and social media features.

Results: The tool, released in March 2011, will be demonstrated at the session. An interactive slider enables the user to select a county, state, or the country and to “change” the number of deaths that would occur in the area by assuming different rates for income or education. The user can compare geographic areas, export findings and share the tool through email and social media, and follow links to more detailed statistics and policy guidance about social determinants. Conclusions: Regression techniques can model the relationship between social determinants and health with sufficient precision to give the public a sense of magnitude about the association. Public health, communication, creative arts, and information technology can collaborate to produce engaging tools for the public that give relevance to scientific data.

Learning Areas:
Advocacy for health and health education
Communication and informatics
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Public health or related education
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
1. Explain the challenges in fitting a regression equation to census data and vital statistics for thousands of counties. 2. Describe the County Health Calculator and its key design features. 3. Discuss the role of collaboration between scientists, communication specialists, designers, and funders in developing and disseminating evidence-based resources for a general audience. 4. Discuss the challenges of maintaining scientific rigor when translating complex models to narrative outcomes.

Keywords: Public Health Policy, Internet Tools

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a masters level epidemiologist who conducts research on social determinants of health funded by NIH and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. I have worked on all states with the development and implementation of the online tool this presentation will highlight.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.