Before I discuss the effort of achieving health equity, I want to point out the distinction between equity and equality. I think the image above from the Interaction Institute for Social Change by Angus Maguire perfectly illustrates the difference of sameness versus fairness.
It is easier to understand health equity when you have knowledge of health inequities. Health inequities are differences in health that are avoidable, unfair, and unjust. Groups that commonly experience health inequities, such as poor or marginalized persons, racial and ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+, and women have a common characteristic of a lack of political, social or economic power.
Health equity is defined by Healthy People 2020 as the “attainment of the highest level of health for all people.” Why does achieving this matter? It matters because everyone deserves a fair chance to lead a healthy life. The opportunity to lead a healthy life should not be abandoned because of who they are or their socio-economic opportunities.
I found the Health Equity Institute, American Public Health Association and World Health Organization have shared exceptionally constructive and informative information on work to achieve health equity. I have consolidated their ideas here:
- Value all people equally
- Focus on the root cause of health inequities and health disparities
- Particular attention to groups that have experienced major obstacles to health associated with socio-economic disadvantages and historical and contemporary injustices
- Promotion of equal opportunities for all people to be healthy
- We optimize the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, learn and age
- Distribution of socio-economic resources needed to be healthy in a manner that progressively reduces health disparities and improves health for all
- Continuous efforts to maintain a desired state of equity after avoidable health inequities and health disparities are eliminated
- Work with other sectors to address the factors that influence health
- Name racism as a force in determining how social determinants are distributed
- Empower groups in question through systematic changes or economic and social relationships
Finally, the image above from the King County Determinants of Equity Baseline Project made me realize the importance of interdisciplinary work. Public health officials cannot achieve health equity alone. Incorporating public safety officers, educators, government officials, or healthcare providers is a small example of who we must also get involved to work towards attaining equitable populations.
Here are a few links to some great health equity resources:
It is not enough to be compassionate. You must act. -Dalai Lama
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. -Martin Luther King Jr.