About Health Equity
What is Health Equity?
Health equity means ensuring fair opportunities for everyone to lead healthy and long lives by eliminating the barriers to, or addressing the fundamental conditions necessary for, achieving good health, especially among populations that have experienced cumulative disadvantage or stigma.
Principles of Health Equity
Health equity requires:
Focusing on the needs of marginalized community members who face persistent barriers to health and targeting solutions that enable them to live healthier lives.
Creating a fair social environment that allows people of different backgrounds and in all places to thrive. This means addressing inequities through policy, systems, practice, and environmental changes that incorporate community input, best available evidence, and culturally appropriate strategies.
Recognizing the intersection of issues that contribute to social inequities. That means prioritizing the social determinants of health that include economic security; education; housing; transportation; criminal justice; the built, natural and social environments; food access; and health care access and quality.
Valuing all human life. This means prioritizing diversity and inclusion; investing time, resources, and effort in supporting people and places that have been frequently overlooked; and acknowledging, discussing, overcoming, and addressing racism, sexism, classism, and other dehumanizing forms of systemic oppression.
Establishing and maintaining authentic relationships with community members who face persistent barriers to health and working collaboratively with them to solve the challenges that contribute to inequities. These relationships must involve regular communication and be based on mutual respect, trust, and recognition of each other’s knowledge, talent, and common interests.
Recognizing and leveraging community power to advocate for policy, systems, practice, and environmental changes that improve living conditions and expand access to health-promoting opportunities.
Working with community members across sectors, issues, and social groups to engage in mutually reinforcing activities that support the common goal of creating a culture of health.
Equality vs. Equity
Equality does not equal equity. Equality seeks to provide the same level and type of resources across population groups or areas even when some are more disadvantaged than others. This leads to an underinvestment in strategies that would close gaps in opportunity. Equity, on the other hand, seeks to account for inequality by customizing the level and types of resources provided to eliminate disparities and ensure sufficiently similar outcomes for all population groups and areas.
The Social Determinants of Health
Lara’s health tells the story of her life. It tells of her genetics and her dietary and activity choices. But more than that, Lara’s health tells the story of the community where she lives, learns, works and plays. Her health is a narrative of her access to healthy foods to nourish her body and affordable health care. It chronicles the reliability of public transportation, the quality of schools, and the availability of well-paying jobs and supportive childcare. It reflects the level of support that community members provide to each other and the power that Lara and her neighbors hold and use to speak out for change. It also tells of the bias and systemic oppression Lara faces because of her ethnicity, gender, and class. Lara’s health is the story of the social determinants that surround her and how they impact her ability to live a long, healthy life.
Learn more about the social determinants of health and efforts to achieve health equity by visiting our stories page.