Using multidimensional poverty and vulnerability indices to inform equitable policies and interventions in health emergencies

Health emergencies pose serious threats to human lives and livelihoods, including immediate threats to health, survival, the economy and social life. WHO and OPHI have been collaborating to explore how the global Multidimensional Poverty Index (global MPI) and national Multidimensional Poverty or Vulnerability Indices (MPIs or MVIs) – could be or are already being used in health emergencies and to address health components of humanitarian crises.

This Research Brief provides an overview of their use, with the goal of sharing insights and lessons learned, as well as informing further exploration, based on how MPIs and MVIs have been used in Afghanistan, Colombia, Honduras, Iraq and the South Asia region during the COVID-19 pandemic. MPIs and MVIs capture the overlapping deprivations that people experience. They identify who is particularly disadvantaged or vulnerable by integrating information on the many dimensions of human development into a more holistic overall assessment, going beyond income or consumption. In particular, four ways of using multidimensional measures for health emergency preparedness, response and recovery are presented. (1) Constructing MVIs that capture overlapping vulnerabilities and provide information that identifies the most vulnerable and the main indicators increasing their vulnerability; (2) Using existing MPIs to inform the preparation for, response to and recovery from health emergencies; (3) Merging MPIs or MVIs with aggregate-level data to associate multidimensional measures with other indicators relevant in the context of health emergencies; (4) Microsimulating how people’s vulnerabilities or deprivations might be impacted by shocks, such as those associated with a health emergency. The use of multidimensional measures in the context of health emergencies is new. It is a field that invites further study, discussion and exploration.

Citation: WHO (2021). Using multidimensional poverty and vulnerability indices to inform equitable policies and interventions in health emergencies. Research brief. World Health Organization.

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