2-1-1s reach populations vulnerable to COVID-19

September 3, 2020

When you compare 2-1-1 callers in the U.S. to populations that the U.S. government has designated as health priorities, it is abundantly clear that 2-1-1s serve virtually every single group.  The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has identified 8 “health disparity populations” and 16 “COVID-19 vulnerable populations” as priorities for research, testing and vaccination in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Using publicly available data, we examined how well 2-1-1s’ caller populations represented these groups.  Specifically, we compared the proportion of each priority group among 2-1-1 callers to the general U.S. population. Of the 23 priority populations (“rural” appears on both lists), we were able to obtain U.S. and 2-1-1 data for 19. In 17 of those groups (89%), the proportion among 2-1-1 callers was the same (n=2) or greater (n=15) than that for the U.S. as a whole. Most notably, every racial or ethnic minority group was overrepresented among 2-1-1 callers, as were low-income Americans and those with medical co-morbidities, mental illness, and housing challenges. These data provide more evidence for why 2-1-1s should be at the heart of public health efforts to address COVID-19. Estimates of NIH Health Disparity and COVID-19 vulnerable groups were calculated for areas covered by 2-1-1s in a tracking system using publicly available data.1-5 If area-specific data were unavailable we used U.S population estimates.6-20 The “Requests” column estimates the percent of 2-1-1 requests from ZIP codes where each population is 2X larger than the population estimate (noted by *) or the percent of requests made by the population of interest (noted by †). Dates used are 8-1-19 to 7-31-20. In the “Studies” column, estimates were based on survey data from studies that recruited participants through 2-1-1s.21-30


Table 1. 2-1-1 reach to priority populations

Contributors: Rachel Garg, Balaji Golla, Matthew Kreuter