Defining Health Equity
What is Health Equity?
Healthy People 2020 defines health equity as "attainment of the highest level of health for all people. Achieving health equity requires valuing everyone equally with focused and ongoing societal efforts to address avoidable inequalities, historical and contemporary injustices, and the elimination of health and health care disparities." 1
(1) continuous efforts focused on elimination of health disparities, including disparities in health care and in the living and working conditions that influence health, and
(2) continuous efforts to maintain a desired state of equity
after particular health disparities are eliminated. Health equity is
oriented toward achieving the highest level of health possible for all
groups. Achieving health equity requires both short- and long-term
- Particular attention to groups that have experienced major obstacles to health associated with being socially or economically disadvantaged.
- Promotion of equal opportunities for all people to be healthy and to seek the highest level of health possible.
- Distribution of the social and economic resources needed to be healthy in a manner that progressively reduces health disparities and improves health for all.
- Attention to the root causes of health disparities, specifically health determinants, a principal focus of Healthy People 2020.
The concepts of health equity and health disparity are inseparable in their practical implementation. Policies and practices aimed at promoting the goal of health equity will not immediately eliminate all health disparities, but they will provide a foundation for moving closer to that goal. 2
1 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Minority Health. National Partnership for Action to End Health Disparities. The National Plan for Action Draft as of February 17, 2010. Chapter 1: Introduction. Available here.
2 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Healthy People 2020. Washington, DC. Available here.
The National Association of County and City Health Officials presents The Roots of Health Inequity: A Web-Based Course for the Public Health Workforce