Explore Priority Populations

What is a Priority Population?

Priority populations represent diverse groups, communities, demographics, identities, statuses, and lived experiences. Using a priority populations lens helps us identify populations of interest, lift up important underserved populations, and help root in equity and justice. Explore more on Community Commons

In health impact assessments, priority populations include groups that are affected by a policy, program, or project, and have a stake in the decision. HIAs may give special consideration to affected population groups or do some special analysis of impacts to them. The HIA process may include targeted outreach and engagement to affected populations and other community stakeholders.

HIAs on this site are filterable and discoverable by Priority Population. Learn More

Explore priority populations, related HIAs below and more.


Tribal Communities

Tribal communities can be defined as distinct groups of Indigenous peoples within Native American and First Nations populations, characterized by their own cultural, social, and political structures. These communities have faced historical oppression and continue to strive for health equity and racial justice through the empowerment and centering of their voices.

Rural Communities

Rural communities can be defined as geographic areas with lower population density where a significant portion of the population resides. These communities face health disparities due to factors such as geographic isolation, limited access to healthcare services, higher rates of poverty, risky behaviors, and insufficient specialty care, resulting in lower life expectancy and higher mortality rates from preventable illnesses.

Urban Communities

Urban communities are generally defined as areas with high population density, with the US Census Bureau qualifying an urban area as a territory encompassing at least 2,000 housing units or with a population of at least 5,000. Urban communities experience unique challenges and health disparities due to limited access to green space and fresh, nutritious food, densely-packed populations, and increased exposure to air and noise pollution, among others.

Suburban Communities

In general, suburban areas are lower density areas that separate residential and commercial areas from one another. Though suburban populations, on average, are more educated, have higher life expectancy, and are more likely to have health insurance, these communities still have unique health challenges. Sprawl, a development pattern common in the suburbs, results in low street connectivity and homes, workplaces, and shopping centers that are separated from each other. Sprawl can be linked to decreased physical activity, increased risk of traffic accidents and injuries, and reduced social interaction, all of which affect the health of suburban communities.

General Population

General population refers to the generalized or overall population. It serves as a contrast to priority population groups, such as those on this page, that are considered separately.

Race, Ethnicity, and Language Groups


Black, Indigenous, and People of Color

Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) is a collective term used to refer to individuals who identify as belonging to racial and ethnic groups that have historically faced systemic marginalization, discrimination, and inequality. This includes individuals of African, Indigenous, and non-white backgrounds. BIPOC communities often experience disparities in health outcomes, face ongoing discrimination, and are more likely to be subjected to violence compared to their white counterparts. The term recognizes the shared experiences and intersectional identities of diverse racial and ethnic groups and highlights the need for equity and justice in addressing their unique challenges.

English Language Learners

English language learners are individuals who are learning to communicate in English. People who are ELLs may have varying levels of English proficiency, and are typically learning English as a second or additional language. Many people who are ELLs are immigrants, refugees, and international students. People who are ELL are at greater risk of linguistic isolation and face barriers to navigating health and social systems.

Gender and Orientation Groups


LGBTQ+ People

LGBTQ+ people can be defined as individuals whose gender, sexual orientation, and/or romantic orientation diverge from the heterosexual and cisgender norms prevalent in society. LGBTQ+ is an inclusive term encompassing a diverse range of identities, including but not limited to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Agender, Two Spirit, Nonbinary, Gender Fluid, Genderqueer, Gender Non-Conforming (GNC), Asexual, Aromantic, Demisexual, Demiromantic, Pansexual, Graysexual, and Questioning individuals.

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Health and Ability Groups

People with Chronic and Multiple Chronic Health Conditions

Chronic health conditions are medical conditions that persist over an extended period, such as diabetes, asthma and mental health disorders, requiring ongoing care and maintenance. People with chronic health conditions have increased risk of hospitalization, disability, and death, more medical debt, and increased risk of acquiring other co-morbidities (multiple chronic conditions).

People with Disabilities

People with disabilities can be defined as individuals who have physical, developmental, psychological, vision, hearing, or other impairments that limit one or more major life activities. Disabilities can be visible or invisible, and the definition includes those with a history or record of impairment, as well as individuals perceived by others to have an impairment. People with disabilities deserve equal access to various aspects of life, such as employment, education, healthcare, and recreation, and their inclusion and rights should be prioritized through accessibility, accommodation, and advocacy efforts.

People with Mental Health Conditions

People with mental health conditions are individuals who have a condition that affects their thinking, feeling, behavior or mood. Mental health conditions encompass a wide range of conditions, including anxiety, depression, Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD, eating disorders and schizophrenia. Mental health conditions can affect an individual’s day-to-day living and the ways they relate to others. People with mental health conditions are at increased risk for many chronic physical health conditions.

Age and Life Stage Groups

Children and Youth

Children and youth are defined as individuals in the age range from birth to 18 or, in some cases, up to age 19. This period is crucial for their development, with rapid brain growth and formation of neural connections that shape their abilities and skills in various aspects of life. Children and youth face unique challenges and vulnerabilities, and ensuring their health, well-being, and access to opportunities is essential for their current and future development.



Older Adults

Older adults are defined as individuals typically aged 65 and above in the United States and most Western countries, although the specific age range can vary. Aging is a complex process that affects various aspects of life and increases the risk of age-related illnesses and conditions. Recognizing the unique challenges faced by older adults and promoting their health, well-being, and equitable access to care are crucial for fostering a society that values and supports its aging population.

Socioeconomic and Legal Status Groups

Workers and Employees

Workers and employees are individuals who actively participate in employment or work-related activities. The nature of one’s work significantly impacts their health and overall well-being. Employment provides the necessary income to meet financial obligations, build wealth, and contributes to personal growth and fulfillment. However, work settings and job activities can present occupational hazards and exposures that put individuals at greater risk for disability, morbidity, and mortality. 

People Living in Poverty

People living in poverty are defined as individuals and families who lack the necessary resources and financial means to meet their basic needs and achieve a decent standard of living. Poverty is a complex issue that affects various aspects of life, including access to adequate nutrition, education, healthcare, safe environments, and opportunities for economic mobility. It disproportionately affects marginalized communities, including BIPOC individuals, people with disabilities, immigrants, and LGBTQ+ individuals, and addressing poverty requires systemic changes, such as improving employment opportunities, social support programs, affordable housing, healthcare, and addressing social injustices.

People Experiencing Homelessness

People experiencing homelessness are defined as individuals who lack a stable and permanent place to live, often residing in emergency shelters, temporary accommodations, or on the streets. Homelessness is a complex issue influenced by various factors, such as poverty, lack of affordable housing, unemployment, mental health challenges, and systemic failures. Homeless individuals face significant health risks, including poor mental health, limited access to healthcare, and higher rates of substance abuse, and addressing homelessness requires proactive measures such as eviction prevention programs, affordable housing initiatives, and improved access to healthcare services.

Justice-Involved Populations

Justice-involved individuals include people who are currently residing in jails, youth correctional facilities, or prisons, or have spent time, in jails, youth correctional facilities, or prisons in the past. Significant racial and ethnic disparities in the justice-system carry significant consequences for individuals, families, and communities, with disproportionate impact to BIPOC communities. People who are involved with the justice system are at greater risk of injury and death than the general population, and face disproportionate risk of violence, overdose, and suicide.

People Who Are Uninsured

The Uninsured population is defined as individuals who do not have health insurance coverage. Without insurance, people may face challenges in accessing necessary healthcare services, leading to potential delays in receiving primary care and addressing health issues, which can ultimately result in poorer health outcomes. Barriers to obtaining insurance include factors such as high costs, limited job-based coverage, eligibility issues for government programs like Medicaid and the Marketplace, and a lack of awareness about available financial assistance.


Vital Conditions


Priority Populations

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