What makes you healthy?

The Virginia Department of Health – Office of Health Equity (VDH-OHE) has developed the Health Opportunity Index (HOI) to help communities understand the many factors determining health, so they can work to improve the health outcomes for all their residents. The HOI is a composite measure of the Social Determinants of Health (the social, economic, educational, demographic, and environmental factors that relate to a community’s well being and the health status of a population). It is comprised of 13 indicators, organized into four profiles, that reflect a broad array of social determinants of health: ​

The Community Environmental Profile
(1) Air Quality
(2) Population Churning
(3) Population Weighted Density
(4) Walkability

The Consumer Opportunity Profile
(5) Affordability
(6) Education
(7) Food Accessibility
(8) Material Deprivation

Economic Opportunity Profile
(9) Employment Access
(10) Income Inequality
(11) Job Participation

Wellness Disparity Profile
(12) Access to Care
(13) Segregation

Why is the Health Opportunity Index Important?

There are many factors that affect your health. Biological factors, such as your genes and age, behaviors such as substance use, eating habits and exercise, and the quality of the medical care you receive all play a role. However, more and more research is discovering the importance of the social, economic and environmental factors that drive health–the Social Determinants of Health (SDOH). While estimates vary, the US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention estimates that more than half of the variation in health outcomes is driven by the SDOH.

The Health Opportunity Index provides Virginians with a roadmap to explore the SDOH in their communities. The HOI is an invaluable tool that can provide a baseline for a community to determine what factors lead to positive health outcomes and healthy communities and identifies areas and populations that are most vulnerable to adverse health outcomes based on social determinants of health. The HOI can help communities examine their health opportunity landscape, target limited resources and, most importantly, begin conversations around health and public policy.

While not an exhaustive or definitive examination of the SDOH, Virginia’s HOI has been calibrated with the health outcome measures of life expectancy, disability-adjusted life expectancy and low birth weight, and is strongly predictive of key health outcomes in Virginia.