Journal of Urban Health

, Volume 91, Issue 6, pp 1048–1064 | Cite as

Social Vulnerability Index for the Older People—Hong Kong and New York City as Examples

  • Pui Hing ChauEmail author
  • Michael K. Gusmano
  • Joanna O. Y. Cheng
  • Sai Hei Cheung
  • Jean Woo


Many world cities have suffered large-scale disasters, causing a significant loss of lives, property damage, and adverse social and economic impact. Those who are most vulnerable during and in the immediate aftermath of disaster crises are the elderly. Therefore, it is imperative to identify them and determine their specific needs in order to support them. Although several Social Vulnerability Indexes (SVIs) have been developed to assess different types of disaster vulnerability across geographic and population levels, few have been tailored to the older population. Building on the research of Gusmano et al., this study modifies and uses an SVI specifically designed to assess the vulnerability of older populations to emergencies and disasters across seven domains, namely, population size, institutionalization, poverty, living alone, disability, communication obstacles, and access to primary care. Moreover, it is acknowledged that availability of data largely depends on the local context and is always a barrier to production of indices across countries. The present study offers suggestions on how modifications can be made for local adaptation such that the SVI can be applied in different cities and localities. The SVI used in this study provides information to stakeholders in emergency preparedness, not only about natural disasters but also about health hazards and emergencies, which few existing SVI address.


Social Vulnerability Index Elderly Hong Kong New York City 



The authors would like to thank Dr. Daniel Weisz for his assistance in gathering the New York City data.


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Copyright information

© The New York Academy of Medicine 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pui Hing Chau
    • 1
    Email author
  • Michael K. Gusmano
    • 2
  • Joanna O. Y. Cheng
    • 1
  • Sai Hei Cheung
    • 1
  • Jean Woo
    • 3
  1. 1.The University of Hong KongPokfulamHong Kong
  2. 2.The Hastings CenterGarrisonUSA
  3. 3.The Chinese University of Hong KongShatinHong Kong

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