CDC SVI Documentation 2018 | Place and Health



What is Social Vulnerability?

Every community must prepare for and respond to hazardous events, whether a natural disaster like a tornado or a disease outbreak, or an anthropogenic event such as a harmful chemical spill. The degree to which a community exhibits certain social conditions, including high poverty, low percentage of vehicle access, or crowded households, may affect that community’s ability to prevent human suffering and financial loss in the event of disaster. These factors describe a community’s social vulnerability.

What is CDC Social Vulnerability Index?

ATSDR’s Geospatial Research, Analysis & Services Program (GRASP) created Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Social Vulnerability Index (CDC SVI or simply SVI, hereafter) to help public health officials and emergency response planners identify and map the communities that will most likely need support before, during, and after a hazardous event.

SVI indicates the relative vulnerability of every U.S. Census tract. Census tracts are subdivisions of counties for which the Census collects statistical data. SVI ranks the tracts on 15 social factors, including unemployment, minority status, and disability, and further groups them into four related themes. Thus, each tract receives a ranking for each Census variable and for each of the four themes, as well as an overall ranking.

In addition to tract-level rankings, SVI 2010, 2014, 2016, and 2018 also have corresponding rankings at the county level. Notes below that describe “tract” methods also refer to county methods.

How can CDC SVI help communities be better prepared for hazardous events?

SVI provides specific socially and spatially relevant information to help public health officials and local planners better prepare communities to respond to emergency events such as severe weather, floods, disease outbreaks, or chemical exposure.

CDC SVI can be used to:

  • Allocate emergency preparedness funding by community need.
  • Estimate the type and amount of needed supplies such as food, water, medicine, and bedding.
  • Decide how many emergency personnel are required to assist people.
  • Identify areas in need of emergency shelters.
  • Create a plan to evacuate people, accounting for those who have special needs, such as those without vehicles, the elderly, or people who do not speak English well.
  • Identify communities that will need continued support to recover following an emergency or natural disaster.
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