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Populations and Vulnerabilities - CDC Tracking Network

 

Certain factors, like your sex, age, or income can influence your health, your risk for certain diseases, and your risk for being seriously affected by public health emergencies. The same is true for populations.

Understanding population characteristics is essential for public health practices such as program planning, epidemiologic studies, and public health emergency preparedness. Knowing a population’s characteristics, including their vulnerabilities and resources, can help public health professionals determine possible effects of health problems or environmental conditions on disease trends and patterns over time and across locations. These data can show which areas or population groups are likely to be

  • at-risk for acute and chronic illnesses.
  • exposed to different chemicals in the environment.
  • affected by a public health emergency.

CDC's guide "Planning for an Emergency: Strategies for Identifying and Engaging At-Risk Groups" describes six categories to consider when identifying at-risk groups that could be disproportionately affected by disasters.

  • Socioeconomic status
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Race and ethnicity
  • English language proficiency
  • Medical issues and disability

The Tracking Network includes data for each of these categories.

Categories of population characteristics and vulnerabilities include demographics, health status, and socioeconomic factors.

Demographics

  • Age
  • English language proficiency
  • Household type
  • Population density
  • Race and ethnicity
  • Sex

Health Status

  • Chronic health conditions
  • Disabilities
  • Health insurance status

Life Expectancy

  • Life expectancy at birth

Socioeconomic Factors

  • Education level
  • Employment status
  • Household income
  • Poverty status
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Demographics

Demographics are important factors to consider when describing the effects of disease or illness on a community and society. Many studies have shown that these factors can indicate how many people have, and how many people will get, a specific disease.

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Health Status

Populations with an impaired health status or who are uninsured may be more vulnerable in emergency or disaster situations. This population may require extra resources to prepare, evacuate, and recover from emergency situations.

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Life Expectancy

Life expectancy is the number of years a person can expect to live. Researchers have linked a decline in life expectancy to increasing disparities among U.S. counties. Possible causes of the disparities include differences in health care quality and access, socioeconomic factors, and environmental, behavioral, and physiological risk factors.

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Socioeconomics

Socioeconomic factors are conditions that that may affect a person's or population's way of life and their health. These factors include education, occupation, and income.

Research has shown that people with limited means may be unhealthier at birth and throughout their lives. Studies also show that levels of education and income, and occupation are related to risks for certain chronic health conditions. These relationships must be considered when deciding if the environment and health outcomes are connected.


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