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Coronavirus and Urban Health

Image of 3 UHC COVID-19 Dashboards on Mobile Devices

The Urban Health Collaborative's Response to COVID-19

Health in cities has always been a focus of the Urban Health Collaborative and we are actively working to address how COVID-19 is impacting the health of residents in urban areas as well as the implications of the pandemic for health equity. Urban Health Collaborative researchers have been developing powerful data tools to track COVID-19 related outcomes locally, nationally and globally, as well as creating resources and content for the public health community. This page serves as an up-to-date guide on UHC news, analysis and other work surrounding coronavirus and urban health.

COVID-19 Data

COVID-19 Health Inequities in Cities - National

Drexel University’s Urban Health Collaborative has partnered with the Big Cities Health Coalition (BCHC) to release the “COVID-19 Health Inequities in Cities Dashboard”. This dashboard is a powerful data tool that enables visualizations of COVID-19 related outcomes and inequities in COVID-19 related outcomes over time and across BCHC cities. The dashboard includes information on COVID-19 incidence, mortality, testing, test positivity, and hospitalizations in BCHC cities. Additionally, the dashboard allows users to characterize, compare, and track inequities at three levels : across individuals within cities, across neighborhoods within cities, and across cities. Interactive visualizations allow users to explore data on COVID-19 related outcomes and outcome inequities for BCHC cities, including options for users to select specific variables or cities and tooltips to assist in interpretations. Read more about the dashboard.

Visit the Dashboard

COVID-19 Vulnerability Indicators - Philadelphia

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Drexel West Philly Promise Neighborhood team has built data dashboards to help to identify areas in Philadelphia that are at highest risk for COVID-19 and its longer-term impacts. We hope these data and maps can be useful for allocating resources during response and recovery efforts. The first dashboard shows general vulnerabilities based on the CDC's Social Vulnerability Index. This Index displays 15 U.S. Census variables at the tract level to help local officials identify communities that may need support in preparing for or recovering from disaster. We have adapted this index to be relevant to the Philadelphia context. The second dashboard shows data on additional COVID-related vulnerabilities relevant to Philadelphia communities, including health conditions, access to resources, and more detailed housing data. The third dashboard, the Essential Worker Dashboard, shows data on workers in essential industries, including data on race and ethnicity, pay, and where workers live.

Visit the Dashboard

COVID-19 in Latin America and the Caribbean - Global

The Urban Health Collaborative has strong ties to Latin America through participation in the Urban Health Network for Latin American and the Caribbean (LAC-Urban Health network). Salud Urbana en America Latina (SALURBAL), the Network’s main project, is a five-year project that was launched in April 2017. SALURBAL researchers are currently tracking the COVID-19 pandemic in Latin American countries. Developed in May of 2020 to both monitor the spread of COVID-19 and visualize current cases in countries, cities, and sub-cities in Latin America. The dashboard allows visitors to view changes in the number of confirmed cases and number of COVID-19 deaths in Latin American countries and compare the progress of the pandemic across many different countries.

Visit the Dashboard

COVID-19 Briefs and Resources

COVID-19 and Urban Health in Latin America (6.14.21)

The Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region is one of the world regions hardest hit by the pandemic. This brief the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic using data compiled by the Salud Urbana en América Latina ("Urban Health in Latin America") project (SALURBAL). The brief includes information on the number of cases, deaths, and vaccinations reported, as well as socioeconomic inequities in these outcomes in Latin American cities. Policy approaches and actions that some cities and countries have implemented to improve data quality and reduce inequities are highlighted.

Learn more about the project

The Impact of COVID-19 in Latino Communities in Philadelphia (6.8.21)

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the loss of many lives in Philadelphia. The impact, however, has been disproportionately high among the Latino and Black communities. Over the past year, excess rates of infection, hospitalization and deaths have unfolded among the Latino community. This new data brief uses the framework of differential exposure and vulnerability to illustrate the context in which factors have converged to result in disproportionately large COVID-19 impact among Latinos in Philadelphia.

Learn more about the project

COVID-19 Inequities among Hispanics in US Cities Project (3.18.21)

The COVID-19 pandemic has wide inequities in COVID-19 outcomes that have been reported for racial/ethnic minorities, including Hispanics. Hispanics suffer from specific social vulnerabilities that lead to increased risk of infection, and increased prevalence specific risk factors that lead to increased risk of severe illness. This project will leverage data on COVID-19 outcomes by race/ethnicity and neighborhood from the 30 largest cities of the US, corrected for imperfect testing quality and coverage; social inequality measures; and a diverse set of compilations of state-, county- and city-level policies.

Learn more about the project

Latin American COVID-19 Repository (2.10.21)

The Americas Society (a forum dedicated to education, debate, and dialogue in the Americas) and the Council of the Americas (a regional business organization) are implementing an ongoing effort to compile the “the latest, clearest information about how the novel coronavirus is affecting specific Latin American countries and the region as a whole.” They have created a repository of articles and information on this topic.

Visit the Repository

Public Transportation and Active Transportation During the Pandemic Brief (11.1.20)

Public Transportation and Active Transportation During the Pandemic is a new brief from Salud Urbana en América Latina (SALURBAL) Project. This brief outlines key recommendations for adapting and supporting public mass transit and active transportation systems to promote safe, healthy, and equitable mobility in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is the first brief in SALURBAL’s new mini-series, COVID-19 and Urban Health in Latin America.

View the Brief

Indoor Dining and COVID-19 Brief (9.1.20)

After several months of strictly limiting restaurants to delivery, take-out, and curb-side pickup services, cities across the U.S. have begun to allow food establishments to offer on-site dining. Since March, state and local governments have worked with businesses to ensure that precautions are taken for the safety of their residents. Simultaneously, cities are eager to sustain and rebuild local businesses after months of economic distress. With many food establishments forced to shutter or transition to takeout only service, the pandemic has led to widespread job loss in the restaurant industry. Local governments’ handling of this balance between the health of their residents and the strength of their economy has varied significantly across the U.S, depending on state guidance, local regulation, and rates of community transmission of COVID-19.

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COVID-19 in Context: Racism, Segregation, and Racial Inequities in Philadelphia Brief (6.1.20)

On March 10, 2020 the city of Philadelphia reported its first case of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)- an infectious disease caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-Cov-2. While interpretations of early data framed the COVID-19 pandemic as the “great equalizer,” racial inequities in the city began to emerge in late March, with Blacks being disproportionately impacted. As reported by the City of Philadelphia on May 29, 2020, forty-five percent of people with confirmed infection were known to be Blacks, 15 percent were white, 9 percent were Hispanic, 4 percent were Asian, and 23 percent were of unknown race. Blacks were 1.9-3.5 times more likely to have confirmed infection than whites (Figure 1). Mortality rates were substantially higher among Blacks (9.4 per 10,000 residents) than whites (6.3 per 10,000). While data disaggregated by race/ethnicity are critical, these data alone fail to fully capture the root causes of racial inequities in COVID-19 and mask the complex systems operating to produce them. This not only limits a more complete understanding of the problem, but it also restricts the scope of short- and long-term policy solutions. This brief uses foundational frameworks of racism and descriptive spatial analysis to place data on COVID-19 in Philadelphia in context, illustrating how structural racism and historical and contemporary patterns of residential segregation have converged to create racial inequities during this pandemic.

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West Philly Promise Neighborhood (WPPN) COVID-19 Community Resources (5.15.20)

WPPN has been hard at work generating infographics and resources for the City of Philadelphia. Feedback from their West Philadelphia partners and community residents prompted work on advocacy for social distancing measures, facts about COVID-19, internet access, food access, and testing sites. The WPPN team have also been calculating how many hospitalizations and lives have been saved in Philadelphia due to the shelter-in-place/ stay-at-home orders enacted March 23rd, producing infographics after 2 weeks, 30 days, and 45 days to share with City agencies and the public. These were calculated by the WPPN team at the Urban Health Collaborative at Drexel University’s Dornsife School of Public Health using a model published by The New York Times, and translated into Spanish by Ana Martinez-Donate’s Creating Resilient and Strong Opinion Leaders (CRiSOL) Program.

Social Distancing Graphic
COVID-19 Testing Sites in West Philly
Facts About Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)
Internet Connection Infographic
Lives Saved in Philadelphia Infographic

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Estimates of Lives Saved by Stay at Home Orders in U.S. Cities (5.12.20)

Using the same model as the WPPN team, the Big Cities Health Coalition (BCHC) team at the Urban Health Collaborative replicated these Philadelphia estimates to calculate hospitalizations and lives saved for all 30 largest health jurisdictions in the US (including Philadelp2hia). The results released show that early actions by BCHC members and leaders from America’s largest metropolitan health departments, to get the public to stay home led to an estimated 2.1 million hospitalizations avoided and over 200,000 lives saved.

See all 30 BCHC cities estimates

COVID-19 News

COVID-19 Research at the Community Level (10.28.20)

Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and the Urban Health Collaborative (UHC) at Drexel University’s Dornsife School of Public Health are partnering with multi-family property owners to develop data indicators demonstrating the connections between COVID-19 and tenant, building owner, and building needs. These include current and projected needs of tenants such as basic daily needs, behavioral health needs, physical health status, job loss due to COVID-19, and the corresponding impact on affordable rental properties.

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Barriers and Opportunities to Address Geographic Inequity in a Pandemic (9.17.20)

Alina S. Schnake-Mahl, ScD, MPH, postdoctoral research fellow at the UHC, published Places and the Pandemic – Barriers and Opportunities to Address Geographic Inequity. The beginning of the pandemic saw urban areas as hotspots for COVID-19, however, many rural and suburban areas across the country have experienced similar infection and mortality rates. COVID-19 does not respect geographic boundaries, but racial and socioeconomic inequalities that existed long before the novel coronavirus have maintained their persistent patterns.

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How Lives Saved Estimates Were used by Policymakers (6.25.20)

Infographics produced by the Urban Health Collaborative (UHC) in partnership with the Big Cities Health Coalition (BCHC) have made waves across the country as public officials reinforce the value of social distancing in their jurisdictions. The infographics highlight estimates of lives saved and hospitalizations avoided due to stay-at-home orders in each of the BCHC member cities, emphasizing to residents of the 30 largest U.S. metropolitan areas that their efforts have made an impact. The statistics were referenced in over 60 stories published in news outlets including the Philadelphia Inquirer, Forbes, the Associated Press, and the San Diego Union-Tribune, many featuring interviews with UHC Policy & Community Engagement Core leads Amy Carroll-Scott, PhD, MPH and Jennifer Kolker, MPH.

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What COVID-19 Is Teaching Us About Urban Health in Latin America (6.23.20)

Latin America has been deeply impacted by COVID-19, bringing to light major implications for urban health and health equity research and policy. Urban physical and social environments, lack of health care infrastructure, environmental factors, and other social determinants of health have worsened the impact of the pandemic on Latin America and superimposed pre-existing health threats.

Dean Ana V. Diez Roux, MD, PHD, MPH, of the School of Public Health and Director of the UHC, and Claire Slesinski, MSPH, Senior Program Manager for Global Urban Health along with co-authors from throughout the Latin America region, discussed why the pandemic has impacted Latin American countries so severely and how it has compounded existing public health challenges. The physical and social environments of cities in Latin America and a lack of public health infrastructure have led to challenges in pandemic response. Segregation by social class and ethnicity has created a spatially patterned social and biological vulnerability to COVID-19 with poor and minority groups the most at risk of contracting and having complications. The pandemic has heightened the need for innovative policies that can address the pandemic

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Racial and Economic Health Inequities and COVID-19 (5.1.20)

As COVID-19 spreads across the globe, researchers in public health who have been examining health inequities since before the pandemic are now being called upon to testify to the deepening consequences of inequality. Sharrelle Barber, ScD, MPH, assistant research professor at the UHC and the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, is one of these public health researchers speaking to multiple media outlets on the health inequities being highlighted during this pandemic.

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Our Pandemic and Our Planet - Gina Lovasi, PhD, MPH (4.2.20)

"Today over 4 billion people (more than half of the world’s population) live in cities. Cities are growing rapidly even in parts of the world that were largely rural just a few decades ago. But cities can be good or bad for health depending on how cities are organized and governed. Today the COVID-19 pandemic highlights the impact of urban living and urban policies on health like never before. Cities are, by definition, dense: a lot of people living together and interacting, socializing constantly. This is what gives cities their energy, their drive, their creativity. In the case of transmissible respiratory diseases like COVID-19 it is also why disease transmission can be accelerated in cities."

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Cities, Health Equity, and COVID-19 - Ana V. Diez Roux, MD, PhD, MPH (4.2.20)

"Today over 4 billion people (more than half of the world’s population) live in cities. Cities are growing rapidly even in parts of the world that were largely rural just a few decades ago. But cities can be good or bad for health depending on how cities are organized and governed. Today the COVID-19 pandemic highlights the impact of urban living and urban policies on health like never before. Cities are, by definition, dense: a lot of people living together and interacting, socializing constantly. This is what gives cities their energy, their drive, their creativity. In the case of transmissible respiratory diseases like COVID-19 it is also why disease transmission can be accelerated in cities."

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COVID-19 and Latin American cities - Usama Bilal, MD, PhD, MPH (3.27.20)

Latin America is not just highly urbanized. It is also one of the most economically unequal regions in the world: 8 of the world’s 20 most unequal countries are in Latin America. Latin America also has wide health inequalities in its largest cities, with life expectancy disparities between the areas with the highest and lowest life expectancy being above 10 years in several cities. The role of economic and health inequalities has not been frequently discussed in the context of the pandemic. Still, these inequalities may prove vital to understanding the causes and consequences of the pandemic in Latin American countries and cities.

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COVID-19 Past Events

Confronting Organizational Stress as the Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic Unfold (6.22.2020)

The course, Confronting Organizational Stress as the Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic Unfold was co-sponsored by West Philly Promise Neighborhood (WPPN) and was hosted as part of the UHC coronavirus response to support community organizations adapting to the pandemic. The course content will be available to registered participants for two months to complete at their own pace. Registration for this course is now closed.

Instructor: Sandra Bloom, MD, associate professor, Dornsife School of Public Health, Drexel University.

Emerging Issues in the Coronavirus Pandemic (4.21.2020)

The Urban Health Collaborative and Drexel University's Dornsife School of Public Health experts joined together for an insightful discussion on the implications of the coronavirus pandemic for health in cities.

Panelists: Usama Bilal, PhD, MPH, MD, assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at Dornsife and Urban Health Collaborative, and Jen Kolker, MPH, clinical professor, associate dean for Public Health Practice, Health Management and Policy at Dornsife

Moderator: Gina Lovasi, PhD, MPH, associate professor of urban health at Dornsife and co-director of the Urban Health Collaborative

Watch the webinar

UHC and Dornsife Experts

To view UHC faculty in the news, please visit our media page.

UHC and Dornsife faculty continue to offer expert commentary and analysis on the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in local, national, and international media outlets.

News media professionals should contact Greg Richter, News Manager, at 215.895.2614 or, to schedule an interview with a Dornsife faculty expert.