Glossary of Terms

This glossary provides definitions for commonly used terms and concepts in the HEI for CVD Toolkit.

Glossary of terms


Block Groups (BGs) BGs are statistical divisions of census tracts, are generally defined to contain between 600 and 3,000 people, and are used to present data and control block numbering.1
Census Tracts Census tracts are small, relatively permanent statistical subdivisions of a county or statistically equivalent entity that can be updated by local participants prior to each decennial census as part of the U.S. Census Bureau’s Participant Statistical Areas Program (PSAP). Census tracts generally have a population size between 1,200 and 8,000 people, with an optimum size of 4,000 people.1
Classism Classism refers to the institutional, cultural, and individual set of practices and beliefs that assign differential value to people according to their socioeconomic class, as well as an economic system that creates excessive inequality and causes basic human needs to go unmet.2
Congressional District Congressional districts are the 435 areas from which people are elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.1
Core-Based Statistical Areas (CBSAs) CBSAs consist of the county or counties (or equivalent entities) associated with at least one core (urbanized area or urban cluster) of at least 10,000 people, plus adjacent counties having a high degree of social and economic integration with the core as measured through commuting ties with the counties associated with the core.1
County Subdivisions County subdivisions are the primary divisions of counties and equivalent entities. They include census county divisions, census subareas, minor civil divisions, and unorganized territories and can be classified as either legal or statistical.1
Genderism Genderism, or bias resulting from a gender binary view, is a system of beliefs that perpetuates negative evaluations of gender nonconformity.3
Health Care Access Health care access is defined as the “timely use of personal health services to achieve the best possible health outcomes.”4
Health Disparities Health disparities are preventable differences in the burden of disease, injury, violence, or opportunities to achieve optimal health that are experienced by socially disadvantaged populations.5
Health Equity ​Health equity is the state in which everyone has a fair and just opportunity to attain their highest level of health.6
Health Equity Indicators Health equity indicators represent constructs that have been shown to be important for understanding the causes of inequities in cardiovascular disease.
Health Inequalities Health inequality generally refers to differences in the health of individuals or groups.7
Health Inequities Health inequities are differences in health status or in the distribution of health resources between different population groups, arising from the social conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age. In this sense, health inequities are systematic differences in health that could be avoided by reasonable means.8
Heterosexism Heterosexism is an ideological system that denies, denigrates, and stigmatizes any non-heterosexual form of behavior, identity, relationship, or community.9
Metropolitan Area (MA) The general concept of an MA is that of a core area containing a large population nucleus, together with adjacent communities that have a high degree of economic and social integration with that core.10
Metropolitan Division Metropolitan divisions are smaller groupings of counties or equivalent entities defined within a metropolitan statistical area containing a single core with a population of at least 2.5 million.1
Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA) MSAs are CBSAs associated with at least one urban area that has a population of at least 50,000.1
Minor Civil Divisions (MCDs) MCDs are geographies defined by the U.S Census Bureau for primary governmental and/or administrative divisions of a county or county equivalent, typically a municipal government such as a city, town, or civil township.1
Neighborhood Characteristics Neighborhood characteristics refer to features of socioeconomic (e.g., poverty), service (e.g., access to public transit), physical (e.g., presence of parks), and social (e.g., safety) environment of neighborhoods.
Places Places are geographies defined by the U.S. Census Bureau and include both incorporated places and census-designated places. These areas may change over time as population and/or commercial activities increase or decrease, and they may be thought of as municipalities, cities, towns, villages, boroughs, town/townships, communities, neighborhoods, populated places, or areas associated with a specific name.1
Policy Policy is a law, regulation, procedure, administrative action, incentive, or voluntary practice of governments and other institutions.11
Public Use Microdata Areas (PUMA) PUMAs are geographies defined by the U.S. Census for providing statistical and demographic information. PUMAs have at least 100,000 people, do not overlap, and are contained within a single state.1
Psychosocial Pathways Psychosocial pathways are the ways in which social, cultural, and environmental factors influence an individual’s mind and behavior.12,13
Racism Racism is defined as an organized social system that devalues and disempowers racial groups regarded as inferior, reduces access to resources and opportunities such as employment, housing, education, and health care and increases exposure to risk factors.14,15
Sexism Sexism, defined as prejudice or discrimination based on a person’s sex, stems from an ideology that one sex is superior to the other.16
Social Determinant of Health (SDOH) SDOH are the conditions in the places where people live, learn, work, play, and worship that affect a wide range of health risks and outcomes.17
Socioeconomic Factors Socioeconomic status refers to the absolute or relative levels of economic resources, power, and prestige closely associated with wealth of an individual, community, or country.18 Socioeconomic status is a multidimensional construct comprising multiple factors such as income, education, employment status, and other factors.19


  1. U.S. Census Bureau. Glossary. Updated April 11, 2022. Accessed August 18, 2022.
  2. National Conference for Community and Justice. Classism. Accessed August 18, 2022.
  3. Wallace BC, Carter RT. Understanding and Dealing With Violence: A Multicultural Approach. Sage Publications; 2002.
  4. Institute of Medicine Committee on Monitoring Access to Personal Health Care Milliman M, ed. Access to Health Care in America. National Academies Press; 1993.
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health Disparities. Updated January 31, 2017. Accessed August 18, 2022.,other%20population%20groups%2C%20and%20communities
  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Advancing Health Equity in Chronic Disease Prevention and Management. Updated December 8, 2022. Accessed January 3, 2023.
  7. Kawachi I, Subramanian SV, Almeida-Filho N. A glossary for health inequalities. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2002;56:647–52. doi:10.1136/jech.56.9.647
  8. Marmot M, Allen J, Bell R, Bloomer E, Goldblatt P. WHO European review of social determinants of health and the health divide. Lancet. 2012;380:1011–29. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(12)61228-8
  9. Herek GM. The context of anti-gay violence: Notes on cultural and psychological heterosexism. J Interpers Violence. 1990;5(3):316–33. doi:10.1177/088626090005003006
  10. U.S. Census Bureau. Geographic Areas Reference Manual. November 1994. Accessed August 18, 2022.
  11. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Definition of Policy. Updated May 29, 2015. Accessed August 18, 2022.
  12. American Psychological Association. APA Dictionary of Psychology. Accessed June 21, 2022.
  13. Martikainen P, Bartley M, Lahelma E. Psychosocial determinants of health in social epidemiology. Int J Epidemiol. 2002;31(6):1091–3.
  14. Williams DR, Lawrence JA, Davis BA. Racism and health: Evidence and needed research. Annu Rev Public Health. 2019;40:105–25. doi:10.1146/annurev-publhealth-040218-043750
  15. Paradies Y, Ben J, Denson N, Elias A, Priest N, Gupta A, et al. Racism as a determinant of health: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2015;10(9):e0138511. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0138511
  16. Masequesmay G. Sexism. Encyclopedia Britannica. Updated September 28, 2021. Accessed July 21, 2022.
  17. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Healthy People 2030. Social Determinants of Health. Accessed August 18, 2022.
  18. Braveman PA, Cubbin C, Egerter S, Chideya S, March KS, Metzler M, et al. Socioeconomic status in health research: One size does not fit all. JAMA. 2006;294(22):2879–8.
  19. Havranek EP, Mujahid MS, Barr DA, Blair IV, Cohen MS, Cruz-Flores S, et al. Social determinants of risk and outcomes for cardiovascular disease: A scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2015;132(9):873–98. doi:10.1161/CIR.0000000000000228