What is health equity and why does it matter?

In a world where medical advancements and technological breakthroughs dominate headlines, one critical aspect often remains in the shadows: health equity. Imagine a society where everyone, regardless of their background or circumstances, has equal access to quality healthcare. That’s the main idea of health equity, and it’s a big deal that frequently flies under the radar.


In this article, we’re here to uncover what health equity really means, exploring its significance in our modern society and shedding light on why it matters more than ever before. From uncovering the hidden factors that affect our well-being to understanding how it can transform the way we approach healthcare, we can start making a difference.


What is the definition of health equity?


The CDC defines health equity as “a state in which everyone has a fair and just opportunity to attain their highest level of health”.  However, the WHO also mentions health equity is usually determined by conditions such as where people were born, grow, work, live, age, and biological and social determinants (like political, legal, and economic aspects).


Therefore, regardless of individuals’ backgrounds or circumstances, there must be efforts to achieve health equity. By doing so, we may minimize unfair and avoidable differences and any other roadblock that keeps people from attaining healthcare.


Understanding and Addressing the Social Determinants of Health Equity


To achieve health equity, it is important to address first its social determinants. When everyone has the opportunity to access their “full health potential”, and no one “is disadvantaged from achieving this potential because of their social position or other socially determined circumstance”.


Some social determinants of health like unequal access to health care, lack of education, stigma, poverty, and racism contribute to health inequities. In fact, to reduce health inequities and improve people’s lives, organizations are making commitments and creating programs to address these factors.


For example, the WHO created the Commission on Social Determinants of Health. This Commission follows three principles to eliminate health inequities throughout the world:


  • Improve the conditions of daily life in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age.
  • Tackle the inequitable distribution of power, money, and resources globally, nationally, and locally.
  • Measure the problem, evaluate action, expand the knowledge base, develop a workforce that is trained in the social determinants of health, and raise public awareness about the social determinants of health.


When it comes to “achieving full health potential”, it’s a game where the rules aren’t the same for everyone. But what we can change is how to address these stumbling blocks to ensure everyone can access healthcare.


The Impact of Health Disparities


Healthcare disparities based on race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and other factors have been a persistent issue within modern societies. These disparities encompass differences in access to medical care, quality of care received, and health outcomes. Here are some examples:


  • According to a report by the Kaiser Family Foundation, Black, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaska Native (AIAN) people have higher rates of uninsured, lower access to preventive services, higher prevalence of chronic conditions, and worse health outcomes than white people in the United States.
  • The CDC has mentioned racism is a serious threat to public health and racial and ethnic minority groups are more likely to experience higher rates of illness and death by health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, asthma, and heart disease.
  • The American Psychological Association (APA) explains these health disparities may stem from multiple factors, such as economic determinants, education, geography and neighborhood, environment, lower quality care, inadequate access to care, inability to navigate the system, provider ignorance or bias, and stress. These factors may lead to affecting health outcomes like:
    • African Americans have higher mortality rates from cancer and cardiovascular disease.
    • Hispanics have higher rates of diabetes and obesity.
    • Asian Americans have higher rates of tuberculosis and hepatitis B.
    • Native Americans have higher rates of suicide and substance abuse.


How Can We Break Down Barriers to Promote Health Equity?

Health disparities are a significant challenge in modern society due to systemic inequalities in place. To address this issue and promote health equity, numerous initiatives, policies, and interventions have been developed. A national initiative in place is Healthy People 2030, which sets 10-year objectives and targets for improving the health of all Americans, eliminating health disparities, achieving health equity, and attaining health literacy.


On the other hand, there must be health equity services that should be tailored to the specific needs and preferences of different groups and communities. These services can reduce barriers and improve the quality of care. They can provide health seminars, low-cost services to those living in low-income households, use mobile health screenings to help those who may not have access to transportation, and even offer evening or late-night health appointments.


Policy recommendations can also help promote health equity by aiming to change or improve existing laws, regulations, programs, or practices that affect health and health equity. They can be made at different levels, such as local, state, federal, or global, and by different stakeholders, such as researchers, advocates, policymakers, or organizations.


The role of government, healthcare institutions, and community organizations in driving positive change for health equity is crucial. By joining forces, they have the power and responsibility to create and implement policies and programs that address the root causes of health disparities and ensure equal opportunities and outcomes for all people.


At Gwinnett Coalition, We’re Paving the Way for Health Equity for All Gwinnettians


At Gwinnett Coalition, we understand that to foster health equity, it’s essential to dismantle barriers of inequality. Through initiatives such as our Gwinnett Health Finder, the Gwinnett Health Equity Fund, Infant and Maternal Health Action Team, Gwinnett Cares online resource, and our community engagement team’s outreach efforts, we are working to remove barriers and increase access to affordable, quality healthcare resources.


This approach streamlines health equity and vaccine education, reflecting our commitment to a healthier community. If you’re interested in learning more about our efforts, contact us today.